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Sunday, July 26, 2009

The automatic toilet as symbol

The other day, I was in a mall bathroom with automatic toilets. Several had been left unflushed; the one I used was, as is common, both under- and over-sensitive, flushing before it should and not flushing when it needed to. It occurred to me that automatic toilets are both a symptom and a symbol of what ails this country (well, one important ailment).

Instead of assuming that people can take responsibility to the minimal extent of flushing away their own waste, we replace individual responsibility with a System. The System doesn't really do the job, failing at least as often (I'd guess more often) than the individuals did -- but its very existence leads people to assume that they no longer have to take any action. Thus the System's failures go uncorrected.

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