Thursday, April 26, 2007

A little note on excrements and shop entrance doors

In an article published in the London Review of Books, Slavoj Zizek, Slovenian sociologist, postmodern philosopher, and cultural critic, used a metaphor of a toilet to compare the cultural differences between the German, French and US,

"In a traditional German toilet, the hole into which shit disappears after we flush is right at the front, so that shit is first laid out for us to sniff and inspect for traces of illness. In the typical French toilet, on the contrary, the hole is at the back, i.e. shit is supposed to disappear as quickly as possible. Finally, the American (Anglo-Saxon) toilet presents a synthesis, a mediation between these opposites: the toilet basin is full of water, so that the shit floats in it, visible, but not to be inspected."

Similarly, the direction in which the shop, restaurant etc. entrance door opens (towards the street or towards the inside of the place) is telling of a particular society’s position towards the notion of the public space and public good. Namely, in US shop doors open towards the outside and thus invade the public space, hence one is to conclude, or that America has bigger side-walks so they can allow such luxury, or that this is something to do with fire prevention (mind you one can always break the glass door), or that private property is more important than the public one. In Europe shop windows usually open towards the inside thus reflecting the nature of our social and political system.

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