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October 24, 2014
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Civilization has brought us progress in a lot of arenas, but our freedom to urinate keeps diminishing.

Civilization, we all have to admit, is a mixed bag. It’s nice when you get to play on an Xbox, but it’s shitty when you have to build one. We may be poisoning the air and water, but we can make the air whatever temperature we want, and water comes flowing out of a pipe with the turn of a tap.

But where civilization has utterly failed us is urination. It’s well known that it is miserable to have to urinate, but, except in unfortunate medical cases, the need is easily relieved through the human anatomy. To relieve hunger, you need food, and to relieve thirst, water. To relieve a full bladder, all you need is the urinary tract attached to your body. Why, then, can each of us recall long painful experiences needing to urinate, unable to engage in either work or pleasure, when the key to our prison was between our legs the whole time?

The answer, of course, is the tyranny of civilization. We have been so blinded by society’s demands that we urinate in only a few pre-determined places that we say ridiculous things like “I need to use the bathroom.” It takes only a little boldness, the dropping of the trousers, and the relaxation of a tiny muscle to find that we did not need the bathroom after all; we only needed to find the power within ourselves.

Still, it is hard to exercise this power, even when it would be right and useful to do so. If I am walking around outside, and see a tree, a river, or even a sewer grate, I’ll refrain from urinating, voluntarily wasting my own time in useless irritation, because I’m afraid I’ll be ostracized, shamed, or even arrested. Even when I think I’m alone, I feel eyes gazing out of countless possible windows. We are truly in a urinary panopticon staffed by our friends and neighbors.

It’s time to reconsider the bargain of civilization in light of this particular form of cruelty. Yes, civilization has given us progress. We have, over the centuries, developed flavorful cuisines, expressive literature, powerful technology, and beautiful art. We’ve even improved defecation conditions, with the invention of toilet paper (or, better, baby wipes and bidets). But the history of urinary freedom under civilization has been a steady decline, especially in the “developed” world. It is in this history that civilization reveals its true nature, and that is as a force that claims jurisdiction over our private relief of our own suffering. It is a cruel and malignant force.

I’m not saying that civilization needs to be destroyed, necessarily. I was born in civilization, I live in civilization, all my best friends are civilized. It is out of love for civilization that I say its outdated laws and customs restricting urination must be abandoned; otherwise, the whole endeavor cannot be justified.

We must have a civilization that allows us to pee openly and without worry, or no civilization at all.

The first step, of course, would be the abolition of public urination laws. I’ll admit that I don’t know anything at all about the consequences of what I’m proposing. One objection, which might be fair, is that people don’t want the streets to smell like piss. But if we were to provide grass, or dirt, or cheaply-made unisex urinals, or simple large stone pits leading to some larger body of water, people would naturally pee on these things, and any bad smell would be easily avoided. We can always ask nitpicking questions, but when we encounter a great moral crisis with a straightforward solution, we must commit ourselves to action and then hash out the details.

But to really get at the heart of the problem, we’d need to do more than take care of the practical matters. Even if someone were urinating into a perfectly-plumbed toilet in the middle of the street, some people would object. The root of the idea is that it is not “decent,” that people should be able to avoid seeing the dirty work of human waste disposal. That we should be content to see people dealing privately with the pain and irritation of an overfull bladder, but disgusted by their seeking sweet relief from this pain, is truly the evidence of a twisted and regressive mentality. When we see people pissing outdoors, we should not feel disgust at their natural functions, but rather joy at the fact that a fellow human is gaining happiness through the beautiful and efficient system with which we are all blessed.

To be fair, I’m a man, and live in an unimaginably different reality than women when it comes to public urination, or really anything do with the urinary or sexual organs. While it’s easy for me to imagine unzipping my fly and relieving myself on a wall, many women can’t even envision true urinary freedom, so restricted are they by civilization. Not only do women endure longer lines to urinate, and rarely have access to dedicated urinals, they are made to feel far more shame, and even vulnerability, at the exposure of their bodies. In order to bring about our urinary utopia while maintaining our egalitarian values, we would need to create an environment where seeing a vulva in public would not be considered an invitation to sex, but just an everyday exposure of a common organ needed to relieve one of humanity’s great hassles. One nice thing about the project is that it would require us to solve sexist body-shaming at the same time.

I know this isn’t easy, but mankind is at its best when we attempt things that are not easy, but hard. If we can put a human on the moon, we can restore human urine to the wild outdoors, creating, in effect, a vast open-air toilet for all to use, a magnificent bathroom in which we can all share the experience of relieving our bladders in a great common sigh.

I may be a dreamer. In my last column, I proposed we build a giant pile of rocks to commemorate our declining society before it’s too late. Now, I hope to one day see Americans of all backgrounds, indeed people from all around the world, climbing this pile of rocks and freely relieving themselves wherever they feel the urge, their urine trickling over the stones of our great memorial to be washed out by the rains.


Check out David’s previous column, “Time for America to Call it In and Build a Big Pile of Rocks.”

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