Several years ago, my family and I visited Pompeii, which is one of the most wondrous tourist destinations in the world. To maximize our experience, we hired a highly recommended guide who walked us over the grounds, explaining everything before us. This guide’s particular passion was plumbing. He had no words for the wonders of Roman plumbing, many of which are still visible in Pompeii, and the European tragedy that saw this sophisticated plumbing disappear for around 1800 years. This was also a British tragedy, since England had once enjoyed the benefits of Roman plumbing, only to forget that benefit for centuries, along with the rest of the European world.
I am certainly a fan of modern plumbing. Indeed, when I lived in England thirty years ago, one of the things that stamped it as a civilized country in my mind was the fact that, no matter where one went, one could find clean, functioning public toilets. (We will ignore, for purposes of this post, the execrable toilet paper that accompanied that lovely plumbing.) For a tourist with a small bladder, this was a very big deal.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised by England’s heightened appreciation for clean toilets. After all, Thomas Crapper, the father of the modern toilet, was a British subject. Although he may not have invented the modern flush toilet, it was he who brought it to the masses, allowing people to break free from chamber pots that needed to be emptied by hand (usually into the street) or squalid pit toilets in smelly back yards.
Sadly, however, England seems to be retreating to a pre-modern era when it comes to plumbing. In order to accommodate the overwhelmingly delicate sensibilities of new immigrants who have not, in their home countries, enjoyed the blessings of modern plumbing, at least one major commercial outlet in Britain has installed pit toilets, over which one squats, rather than our nice, Western-style thrones:
For centuries, the great British loo has been a matter of envy to the rest of the world.
Thanks to the efforts of pioneers like the legendary Thomas Crapper, we have long since led the world in comfort and hygiene.
Now, however, that could be about to change.
For most of us, the squat toilet is nothing more than a staple of horror stories about old-fashioned French service stations or the exploits of adventurous backpackers in far-flung parts of India.
But this basic form of plumbing, also known as a Turkish toilet or Nile pan, could be coming to a shopping centre near you – and all in the name of cultural sensitivity.
From next week, shoppers in Rochdale who push open the cubicle door expecting the reassuring sight of a modern, clean lavatory could instead be faced with little more than a hole in the ground.
Bosses of the Greater Manchester town’s Exchange mall have installed two as part of an upgrade costing several thousand pounds after attending a cultural awareness course run by a local Muslim community activist.
A familiar sight in parts of the Middle East, and still sometimes seen in France and Italy, the toilets require users to squat above them, rather than sitting.
With one in ten of Rochdale’s population of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin, centre managers say they have been told some members of the local Asian community prefer them for cultural reasons.
You can read more on this cultural regression here.
I continue to believe that, when immigrants arrive legally in a new country, they should have made available to them all the opportunities that country affords, that they should not be subject to discrimination because of their immigrant status and that, in the privacy of their own homes and the comforts of their own communities, they should be allowed to surround themselves with the trappings of their home culture, if they so desire.
I have never believed, however, that the destination country should be forced by political correctness to re-make itself into a reasonable simulacrum of the country left behind. After all, I have to assume immigrants move for a reason, which reason, presumably, is that the destination country offers opportunities denied them in their homeland. To turn England into a primitive Pakistani village is ludicrous, and offensive both to the British themselves and to those immigrants who genuinely sought a new life in a new culture.