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Malawi: Where Farting Is A Crime.
S

Safety FirstSecond and Third
by Ian R Thorpe
2005-07-10
CREATIVE COMMONS: Attribute, non commercial, no derivs.
KEYWORDS: fart, farting, ind, flatulence, gas, crime, criminal Vaudeville, politically, correct, bad taste, dubious, mannners, society, petomane, health, human, satire, humour, humor

We were gobsmacked to learn earlier in the week that the government of Malawi has made farting a criminal offence.

Boggart Blog has always considered freedom to fart as a basic human right and a civil liberty.

In the past farting was seen as an art form and a popular entertainment. A French Vaudeville artiste Josef Pujol (Le Petomane or The Fartist) was for several years one of the most successful performers on the French Music Hall circuit until one night, stressed by continual abuse his sphincter failed him and as the world fell out of his bottom, the bottom fell out of his world.

Eighteenth century writer Charles James Fox even waxed lyrical on the topic. His work The Benefit Of Farting, Essay Upon Wind began with this disclaimer:

"I think I hear the Curious Reader exclaim, 'Heavens! That the brain of man should be set to work upon such cursed nonsense such damned low stuff as farting; he ought to be ashamed of straining his dull faculties to such a nasty absurd subject.'"

And where are the Politically Correct Thought Police Stupid Health Warnings dept.) on this one. Are they not aware that being too twee to fart is a serious health risk. There was a case of a Roman Emperor who farted himself to death. So long did he suppress his flatulence that when the gas build up finally overcame his sphincter the rapid release of pressure on his heart brought on a cardiac arrest.

Also we would have expected uproar from the people who are always banging on about human right is Africa. Only a couple of weeks ago they were up in arms about two gay Ugandans being punished for holding hands in public but we have not heard a squeak out of them about this latest human rights outrage in an African tyranny. Apparently it is fine for Ugandans to blow each other but not for Mallawians to blow gas.

Anyone who has ever done standup will tell you the brain of man remains as fascinated with the subject today as it was in Fox's or Pujol's time. That cannot ever have been a comedian who did not quickly learn a fart joke is the most reliable way to rescue an act that is dying. Farts are funny. Even my grandson who is only four months old giggles at the sounds made by my favourite toy, Uncle Windy the Farting Gnome. Clearly the humour of farting is embedded deep in the human psyche. Fart lighting videos are one of the staples of You Tube and to judge by the number of hits which internet items on Malawi's supposed ban on farting have attracted the mainstream are more concerned about the right to fart than the right to marry someone of the same gender.

I say "supposed" because the Malawian justice minister is now trying to claim he was speaking in jest when he said a provision to criminalise farting was included in a new law. He may have ben trying the distraction technique to cover up his own embarrassing bottom burp noises. What better that a burst of jeering and ribald laughter to drown out the ripping sound of a shirt flapper.

Distraction is one of the many techniques used to distract attention in such a situation. The most common is to blame the dog. Another is to look pointedly at another person, sometimes combining this with a batting motion of the hands. However, farting etiquette hardly ends there. If you are in audience with a royal person who breaks wind, for example, the subject apologises, not the prince.

The only situation in which one can safely fart in company of the haughtiest particularity is while involed in equine pursuits. Horses are always farting and in the general chorus of rasps, burbles and squitters it is hard to pinpoint the exact source of one sound or smell.

Great thinkers differ widely in their view of farting. The Greek mathemtaician and philosopher Pythagoras never ate beans because he was convinced eery time one farts a little of one's soul escapes. Satirist Jonathan Swift, the author of Gullivers Travels believed suppressing farts, leads to congestion of the brain, adding: "If in open Air it fires, In harmless Smoke its Force expires."

Malawi ministers, take note. They might wish to follow the line western governments have taken on smoking and ban farting in public buildings and offices while tolerating it in private. But they mess with people's right to fart at their peril. On the other hand if this anti - farting movement spreads liberatarians and classical liberals will have yet another will have another stick with which to beat the progressive of The Politically Correct Thought Police.

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