World Toilet

Toilet crusade: From Seoul, the AP reports that the World Toilet Association opened its inaugural conference yesterday. “To the celebratory rhythms of a percussionist beating on toilets,” the story says, representatives from the U.N. and dozens off governments began deliberations. The surprise, for me: the association’s purpose is so serious — to reduce disease and death by providing proper sanitation facilities for the half (almost) of humanity who lack them — that there are dueling international toilet groups. The World Toilet Organization — www.worldtoilet.org — sponsors a World Toilet Summit, a World Toilet College and annual World Toilet Day (November 19 — we just missed it). The johnny-come-lately World Toilet Association, the one that’s beating on toilets in Seoul, sums up its mission this way: “Toilets are essential to life, human health, human development and the environment. Wisely managed toilets mean better health, prosperity and environmental sustainability. On the other hand, poorly managed toilets bring about vicious cycle of diseases, poverty, environmental degradation and a loss of human dignity.”

Both groups are led by someone named Sim — the WTO by Jack Sim, a Singapore real-estate mogul and sanitation activist who first founded a group called the Restroom Association; and the WTA by Sim Jae-Duck, whom the AP says is known in Korea as Mr. Toilet for his efforts to improve sanitary facilities in before the 2002 soccer World Cup held in Korea and Japan. As part of his campaign for toilet awareness, the WTA’s Sim has built himself a toilet-shaped house.

At a speech he gave in August at Malaysia’s National Toilet Expo and Forum, the WTA’s Sim said that on average, most people will spend two to three years of their lives going to the toilet. And though most of us think we know what a toilet is for, Sim expanded on its role:

For the establishment of the World Toilet Association, I visited many countries around the world and witnessed many regions at the risk of secondary transmission of contagious diseases owing to lack of toilet facilities. I could see that especially many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America were facing serious toilet issues.

Most of these regions and countries were too poor to invest in toilets, and it seemed that their people also considered this reality as a given. That was when I realized the importance of changing people’s perception. I wanted to tell leaders of countries all over the world:

By changing toilets, you can change politics.

By changing toilets, you can change people’s lives.

By changing toilets, you can change the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, a toilet is no longer a place for mere defecation. It should not remain out of our perception and awareness any more. The toilet is a “sacred place” that saves human beings from diseases. It is a place of “contemplation” that provides the philosophy of rest and emptiness. And it is a central space for living full of culture.

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One Reply to “World Toilet”

  1. To quote John William Gardener: “An excellent plumber is infinitely more admirable than an incompetent philosopher. The society that scorns excellence in plumbing just because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy.
    Neither its pipes nor its philosophy will hold water.”

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