The Männerbund von den Toiletten

You know the feeling of fellowship that suffuses people gathered around a motel swimming pool. All the guests are bound by the shared memory of having guided the same luggage cart down the same corridor, by the shared dream of the same coffee and cinnamon roll at the morning buffet, by the shared knowledge that they understand each other’s private spaces, right down to the towels and the paintings on the walls.

That is the power of place.

Or consider a “little platoon” of passengers assembled in an elevator. Consider their intimacies of glance, and even touch. Consider the almost familial knowledge that comes of standing only six inches apart. No man is a stranger after such close inspection of the weave of his shirt, the roots of his hairs, or the toes of his shoes. Affinity naturally blossoms in proximity. When I read that Wordsworth’s Michael grew to manhood in

“Fields where with cheerful spirit he had breathed the common air,”

I can only sigh and think of how I grew to manhood in the common air of elevator cars.

Place has a power to make a community even of people stopped at a red light, or caught in a traffic jam. How often the driver in the lane beside me has rolled down his window and sociably offered me a stick of gum.   When it comes to cheerful solidarity, Londoners who gathered in tube stations during the blitz had nothing over Texans in heavy traffic. Our snarled intersections are buoyed by the same jocular pluck, the same sympathetic shrugs, the same emollient courtesies.

I must say that I disagree with the poet Cowper when he writes

“The great and small but rarely meet
On terms of amity complete”

Amity, friendship, fellow-feeling: these are essentially spatial terms. Men’s differences are as nothing if they will only come together in space and meet; and their amity will be most complete when they come together as strangers and by accident.

If you thirst for brotherhood, take your place at a urinal in an airport restroom. How companionable it feels to be in that fraternal space, united by a common aspiration and, needless to say, a common satisfaction.  As we zip our flies and wash our hands, differences of class and nationality melt away, and we become, if only for that short space, a Männerbund von den Toiletten.

This Männerbund von den Toiletten is, I daresay, an intimation and foretaste of the cosmopolitan world that is to come.  In much the same way as the old Christians said that beauty and love are an intimation and foretaste of heaven, we might say there is a foretaste of global community in the companionship of an airport restroom, a traffic jam, an elevator, or a motel swimming pool.  In that not-so-distant day of true global brotherhood, men will not be united by creed or blood, but by place, and oh what places they will be!

10 thoughts on “The Männerbund von den Toiletten

  1. Pingback: The Männerbund von den Toiletten | @the_arv

  2. Pingback: The Männerbund von den Toiletten | Reaction Times

  3. Alright, go easy on the american conservative.

    They’re americans, it’s not their fault they’re mongrels with no culture or natio.

    Frankly, place is all they have. It will be valuable in the future, but only after they’ve fed the soil with their own sweat and blood.

    The only hope of a return to sanity is for everyone to stay exactly where they are. There’s no going back.

    • I’m not ridiculing blood and soil nationalism. Quite the opposite. I’m ridiculing the idea that you can draw a line around a random assortment of humanity and declare it a people. I was provoked by some nonsense asserting that residing on one of the Japanese islands is all it takes to make a man Japanese.

      • I was provoked by some nonsense asserting that residing on one of the Japanese islands is all it takes to make a man Japanese.

        If that is all it takes, then having been born on Japanese soil must be a no-brainer.

      • I am actually actually happy to see them speak about Japan in the same way they speak about America. The patient absurdity of saying that anyone can be Japanese may suggest to some people the patent absurdity of saying that anyone can be American.

      • If they haven’t already done so, the good people of Japan ought to adopt a provision into their governing laws and constitution declaring “all persons born or naturalized in Japan [*]and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the State of Japan, and of the provinces and islands wherein they reside.”

        [*] By “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” all they would mean to say (or do) is to exclude (at least for the time being) certain Japanese-born persons not taxed, and the Japanese-born children of foreign diplomats. In citing the provision 100 years from now, Progressive (whose judgments are holy and true and righteous altogether) Japanese historians would omit to mention the “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” language for the most part, but when (begrudgingly) compelled to grapple with its meaning would loudly declare that “All Persons” means ALL PERSONS (with a couple of minor exceptions).

        This would also go a long ways in eliminating native Japanese Privelege™ and Japanese Hate™ and Racism™ and Native Japanese Supremacy on the islands of Japan perpetrated against its adopted sons and daughters, the pure and undefiled minority Japanese races.

      • The basic problem arises because we have so often named lands after the people who lived there. In the past, when history moved more slowly, a people could disappear, leaving their their name as a toponym. Most residence of modern Burgundy are not of the Burgundian tribe, for instance. If the Japanese people disappeared, we might go on calling the archipelago Japan, and the new people living there Japanese, but it is just confusing to do this while there still is a Japanese people. If they wish to use the word American to describe citizenship, or even just place of residence, I think I’d let them have it. But then I need another name to say what I am ethnologically. This is true of all legacy populations in immigrant destinations. The best solution would be to say that Americans is the name of the descendants of the legacy population, and then coin a new name for the new polyglot mass. Rome should have done the same.

      • It a stretch to call ‘the american conservative’ a blood and soil nationalist publication.

        It’s more of a milquetoast civNatism. Though they beat the regular civnats by at least pointing out that foreigners aren’t american, and that America isn’t universal.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re using the same techniques to establish a ‘nationalism of place’ in both Japan and America.

        After all, It’s an open secret that the american conservative writers are mostly Japan scholars who need new projects.


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