Monday, December 13, 2010

The Politics of Little Things: Slavoj Zizek, the Political Symbolism of Toilets, and the New Right

I was thinking a bit more about our convo on Howard Stern, racially profiled garbage, and community norms...

For granted, I take it that small things matter. Now this isn't purely because of my belief in the power of methodological individualism, but likely more because I am an avid student of human nature. Folks reveal a good deal about themselves through seemingly small things: how a person stands, the words they use, if they wear a watch or not, the type of shoes they wear, the grooming of their nails and hands, and one's style of haircut can tell you so very much. Maybe I have read too much about Harry Houdini's career as a genius breaker of the con game, or watched The Sting more than is recommended? But little things do indeed matter in this signal game called life, and I try to take them all in as best I can.

Politics of course is no different.

In coming full circle from our conversation about garbage, race, ethnicity, and class, Slavoj Zizeck's observations regarding the politics of the toilet are quite apropos. Because ultimately, on a personal level you don't really know a person until you see (and snoop around their bathroom).

Random factoid: in the best Seinfeld inspired spirit, I was hanging out with a quite pretty black Finnish sister. She wanted to take a ride on space mountain and I was more than willing to oblige her. On said evening, I looked about her bathroom and discovered The Tower of Babble in her garbage can, a twisted pile of nasty used tampons that was at least one foot high. I made an excuse and quickly left. My reasoning: if you that nasty, I will remain in blissful ignorance, for I do not want to know what other hellish mess you may have in store later in the night. Case. Closed.

As a complement to Zizek's insight, Theodor Adorno of the legendary Frankfurt School offered a powerful theory wherein the amount of punitive violence used during potty training was correlated to a given person's propensity for authoritarian politics ( a hypothesis clearly influenced by Freud). Zizek ups it one level and examines the collective political unconscious of a society as revealed through its waste disposal apparatuses.

I must wonder, given the New Right populist wave sweeping the country, what are the collective toilet politics operative in the Conservative political personality type that marches lockstep for the Tea Party GOP and the Palin brigades? Immaculately clean or horribly foul? Only made presentable when guests will be coming over and sitting upon the royal throne? Or (pardon my turn of phrase) are the Tea Partiers anally possessed and so clean that one could eat out of their toilet bowls Ramen Noodle prison style?

Just a thought.


Rabia said...

'K, lemme get this straight. You got grossed out by what you found in someone's trash? I could understand if you found a pile of used tampons on a kitchen counter, or on a shelf in the bathroom, or on the floor. But she threw them away. They were in her garbage. People tend to put nasty things in the garbage because that's where they go. Just sayin'.

I had horrible housemates who used to throw away perfectly edible (no blemishes!) fruit. Not only did I find them disgusting people, but that they could so callously toss away food lowered my opinion of not just them, but of their parents, whom I assumed taught them to be wasteful. They put things that didn't belong in the garbage into the garbage.

I get that you may not really know someone on a personal level until you have a chance to snoop their environment, but I think it might be a positive thing to find actual garbage in the garbage.

chaunceydevega said...

Yup. And damn right.

Some things need to be thrown out right away. Not left to pile so high they overflow onto the floor.

But again, we all have our quirks.

gordon gartrelle said...

OK, I guess I get that you don't want bodily extretions (even dried, even in the trash) exposed to the air for an extended period of time, but, Chauncey, you're rooting through her garbage, and you have the nerve to act like she's the nasty one? Please.

Thank you for the dose of sanity, Rabia.

chaunceydevega said...

I know in your embrace of rank humanity you have more of a tolerance than I do Gordon. But this about 1 foot higher than the lid of the garbage pail. I know you would have said "hell no!"

Oh Crap said...

I keep meaning to do a post on Zizek's really fun takeapart of m'girl. But the longer I take, the less relevant it seems.

chaunceydevega said...

@Ohcrap. The Z man is always relevant ;)