8 PM Sunday 28th October 2012 Nunhead Heights

According to a BBC report ‘Handwashing: Why are the British so bad at washing their hands?’ up to a quarter of Britons have fecal material [poo] on their fingers. Research was done to promote the UN’s Global Handwashing Day.

I don’t believe that the British are more unclean than most other people. The contrary is probably true.

I can count on my very clean fingers the number of public toilets in Britain which didn’t have soap available. Many even put out expensive and very stealable liquid soap bottles. I bet that filthy loo in Trainspotting has soap.

You can’t say that about American public toilets.

Most American public toilets ‘boast’ horrible metal pump numbers that are either clogged or empty, and you wind up jamming your fingers up the spout or scraping dripped soap away from the sink, and sometimes even that isn’t successful.

Having said that, by saying American public toilets frequently don’t have soap and by admitting to have lived in America and to having used those toilets implies that you, too, walked out of those toilets with soiled fingers.

It is akin to saying you worked with Jimmy Savile [UK TV presenter being exposed], and you knew all about Jimmy Savile, you, too, must have dirty fingers.

The British can report that kind of disparaging news about their own people because they don’t like their fellow British people very much.

First, and not to open up this complicated question too much, the UK is a nation divided by nation, city, region, race, religion and class.

But even of one of the constituent nations of Britain, England, I can say that the English don’t particularly like other English people.

Englishness resides in the heart and mind of each Englishman. It isn’t a place or a people but the way of the beholder’s life. And an Englishman doesn’t think other English people are as English as he is, or at all.

He will call the Queen a ‘German’. And if the Queen isn’t English, who is?

We Americans boast that ‘America is the greatest country in the world’, not ‘Americans are the greatest people in the world’. Americans, for example, don’t go around thinking they are more ‘American’ than other American. To use an extreme example, I have never heard a white person say that a black American is less American than he is.

No Englishman hearing that English fingers are stinky believes that his fingers are stinky.

Feces on the fingers is a problem that comes from urbanization and industrialization.

Because of plumbing we are able to live in cities. We don’t go off to poo in a field. We defecate into drinking-grade water – at a time when a fifth of the world is without pure drinking water – and then send that polluted water out to hitherto clean rivers and seas. All handled industrially. And we are proud of this because that is what the Romans did.

Then we wipe the excess feces away from our bottoms with soft, easily breakable paper – a recent invention – using either of our two hands.

And to cap it off, we expect OTHERS to clean this toxic waste from their fingers with soap – a manufactured chemical product which is not always available in time of need. We know we always do a good job of it ourselves.

No wonder that a tenth to a quarter of the population have shit on their fingers. And no wonder that those hands touch the food we eat, holds our bank notes, credit cards and phones and greet other people in our ritual of hand shaking.

Not me, of course. And not you. But others.

Yes, we should wash our hands more frequently.

But maybe the primitives had it right. They didn’t have toilet paper or soap. They were taught to use one hand to eat and greet and the other hand deal with the unmentionable. And the Romans used a sponge on a stick.

I hope this isn’t a load of shit. Tell me if you think it is.

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