The yuk factor

‘When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, Sir?’ Maynard Keynes. 

An apt statement in these times when so much changes from one day to the next. I had my first Covid dream the other night and it surprised me, as if the events of our lives are finally percolating through to my unconscious. 

One of our dogs likes to go out into the back garden where she digs up cat shit or fermenting acorns and eats them. She has a delicate gut at the best of times, but these additions to her otherwise staid diet of reduced fat chicken flavoured kibble bruises my sensibilities. 

The culprit

I googled what to do when your dog eats shit and the post tells us to clean up after other animals as best we can and not to make a fuss of it.

If we make a fuss our dogs detect it as a power struggle and become even more interested in eating the forbidden stuff. 

The vet reckons we shouldn’t worry too much. For some reason, most dogs can tolerate eating shit. 

If these ideas are causing you discomfort, I’m not surprised. I find my stomach roiling even in the process of describing the dog in the garden digging up and eating cat shirt. Fermenting acorns are not such a big deal.

I must have been thoroughly indoctrinated as a small child to have a heathy distaste for all things shit related.

Some of the earliest words I remember from my mother: Vies Bah. Dutch for dirty and yuk. These revulsions run deep. I’m sure they serve a survival function, to keep us more concerned hygiene-wise and then less likely to get sick.

I have a similar revulsion though when I read Maynard Keynes’s words, not the stuff about facts changing and changing his mind, but the final address in the question to ‘Sir’. Clearly, he is addressing a man or men.

Whenever I read quotes from the past that speak of mankind, I react.

When I was growing up, I took it all for granted.

Not anymore. These days I want to scream and when I listened to Alexandria Octavio Cortez’s speech a few weeks ago, and her thoughts about her fellow Senator Teho who had verbally abused her on the steps of their government, I was delighted to hear a woman speak so eloquently against a man who had touched her face uninvited and called her a ‘fucking bitch’ on the steps of congress.

I’m tired of abusive language like this. Tired of the slurs and insults that are directed towards women daily, most notably in the way in which women are excluded from the volumes of history.

And later in congress, the speaker referred to Octavio Cortez as ‘gentle woman’ and I thought how quaint, a gentle woman like a gentle man. And how these terms speak to a sense that people can be gentle, whether as men or women, decent as Octavio Cortez argues. 

A decent man is not decent because he has a daughter or a wife. A man is decent because he speaks respectfully to other women and this includes acknowledging their existence.

How does this relate to the dog eating shit in the garden? 

If we can get to the point where sexist comments and the overriding of fifty percent of the population in public discourse like the overriding of people of colour, the overriding of disabled people, of old people or anyone else who is seen to be vulnerable for the simple fact they don’t fit in with the mainstream norm of young, white and male, if these ideas can create an internal response as powerful as our human revulsion to the idea of a dog eating shit, then the world will be a better place. 

As Keynes writes, if the facts change then we can all change our minds. On the other hand, there’s another issue here that relates to notions of fact. What is it? Especially, in this crazy world of conspiracy theories and fake news. Stuff that’s on the rise.

Conspiracy theories are close cousins of denial: I don’t like the truth, so I will tell myself a story to account for the facts that leave them in doubt. That way I don’t have to notice the bus that’s driving towards me. The bus that will run me over, if I don’t pay attention and get out of the way.

You have to deal with uncomfortable facts, not try to turn them into delusions so that your own delusory life can feel better, albeit temporarily. 

Including the horrors of a dog eating the unspeakable. 

9 thoughts on “The yuk factor”

  1. What a fascinating post. My very conservative mother uses the word “disgusting” to describe anything that doesn’t conform to what she believes is “nice” or “normal.” This can include any facial hair, tattoos, uncombed hair on a child and shirts without collars, as well as AOC and Nancy Pelosi. Yet, Trump is never “disgusting.” I recoil at the word in general because of this. I do remember reading Ayn Rand back in my late teens or early twenties and feeling repulsed. Libertarianism provokes the same reaction in me — it is, indeed, people eating their own shit.

    1. I think of you often Elizabeth and all your friends in America, what a hard time you must be having of it with such a person at the helm. There’s a lot of shit eating going on and the worst of it is, there are quite a few people who aren’t appalled. It’s scary stuff. Thanks Elizabeth.

  2. Like you, I—and, I expect, like many, most of us even—have an aversion to all things scatological. I don’t even like it when the word “shit” (or, more often, “shite” here in the UK) is used in a non-bodily-functional context like “Pick up your shit,” or “That film was shite.” And I really don’t understand the expression “shit-eating grin.” Just think what you’re saying! Most wee kids here in Scotland talk about “jobbies” but even as a wee boy I cringed when one of my peers shouted to his mother, “Mammy, I need to jobbie.” Never heard it used as a verb before or since. Can’t remember what I called it as kid. Not “poo” or “doo-doo” or “keich” (hard ch) or “dump” or “crap” and absolutely not “shite”. Nowadays I say, “I have to go a place,” and no further explanation is necessary. When I had my fish tank I hated the coprophagous breeds (wasn’t prepared for that) and especially the ones that swam around for hours or end with the stuff trailing from their undersides. As you say, yuk. My father maintained, although he had no proof, that Adam and Eve’s poos didn’t stink to high heaven. Had he been able to back it up with a scripture I might’ve bought it like, “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. Oh and your shit will start smelling like dead racoons.’” I was amazed how well I coped as a young father when my beautiful baby daughter started leaking green gunge. Wasn’t prepared for that either.

    1. Wonderful thoughts here, Jim and words. who’d have thought all those different expressions for good old excrement? I remember my childhood fascination watching fish in an uncle’s flash tank with their little streak of black from their rear end. Not so much yuk for me then as just plain amazing. Thanks, Jim.

  3. One theory for the origin of dog domestication is that once wolves discovered the tasty resource of human excrement they would hang around human encampments looking for a hand-out (so to speak). As we all know, puppies are irresistible and love everybody so it probably only took a few generations of humans playing with shit-eating puppies to bond them to us forever.

    If there’s any validity to the theory …

    1. Intersting theory, Glenn. We anthropomprphise all over the place, including in relation to the idea of eationg excrement. Taught from earliest days that it’s vile stuff fit only for the toilet. Pity dogs don’t share our sensibilities. Thanks, Glenn.

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