August 23, 2008

Skip to a Loo

The good people at Foreign Policy have analyzed what they term "the toilet situation." That is, they've discovered the toughest place in the world to track down a decent bathroom.

An especially low achiever was Yemen, where school children find themselves particularly afflicted by a lack of restrooms. The report states that to cope, Yemeni students "develop bladders of steel and hold it all day long. Others (usually boys) relieve themselves on school walls."

Yemen's close neighbor, Eritrea, bottoms out the worldwide list, with 85% of all people (and 95% of rural inhabitants) relieving themselves in the open. (That is, "fields, forests, bushes, bodies of water, or other open spaces.")

Of course, both Yemen and Eritrea are impoverished countries where residents struggle to find enough food to get the digestive cycle started.

At the other end of the spectrum are cultures that conspicuously waste food. Case in point: The reality-TV show Hurl. Its contestants stuff themselves with food. They are then marched onto nausea-inducing carnival rides like Loop-the-Lower Intestine and Crack the Colon. The looping and cracking do them in.

Okay, okay, but how do you win? It's a simple goal for contestants: Don't hurl. (This is perhaps just as challenging for viewers.) As the Washington Post reported, Hurl "oozes under the lowest bar ever set by reality television."

In his new book Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique, Michael Gazzaniga's casts some unlikely light here. The author is a cognitive neuroscientist who argues that disgust is among a handful of traits that set humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Thus, we shouldn't castigate a reality program like Hurl. The disgust it engenders only makes us that much more human. Sigh. (See your local listings for air times.)

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