What does a “shithole” look like?

19 January 2018

What does a “shithole” look like?

Image credit: Gage Skidmore (Flickr) – CC BY-SA 2.0

Recently I’ve read a lot about whether US President Donald Trump referred to countries in Africa, as well as Haiti and El Salvador as “shitholes”. I’ve also read a lot of criticism levelled at the President that assumes he did use the term.

Now, I wouldn’t put it past Donald Trump to use such a term, but regardless, the whole ordeal caused me to think.

What would make those nations a “shithole”? Is it the poverty? Violence? Crime? Is it the cleanliness or attitude of the people living there? How do we determine what makes a “shithole”?

Sure, you could look at Australia, the US, Canada, or New Zealand, and recognise that citizens of these nations are lucky to be there, and better off than those living in many African countries, and that may be true — on the surface.

Of course I am lucky to be living in Australia. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given, and almost anyone would tell you that a developed country like Australia is definitely not a “shithole” in terms of the aforementioned criteria. But a little critical thinking goes a long way in today’s age.

Where you may see a happy populace with plentiful opportunity, I see a nation where no one has time for each other, and you’re likely to get in a brawl with someone if you’re driving too slow. I see a place full of anger; we may not have a lot of gang violence, but we have teenagers who aspire to be like those gangs on TV. We may not have as high a crime rate, but we have junkies who’ll commit just about any crime to feed a habit — pretty shitty.

Do we not live in a “shithole” because we have clean water? Because we are clean? Well, if you believe that fantasy, then I suggest you don’t have your tap water tested, or research the cleanliness of all the alcohol and cigarettes we sell at every shopping complex.

But we as a people are clean, right? Well, I went to a school with rubbish bins at every turn, but still, everyday I saw our teachers walking around during the breaks picking up the copious amounts of rubbish left by us, the high school students of a clean, first-world nation — sounds shitty.

So what does a “shithole” look like? Is it a place where the people have judgments about you as soon as you walk in the door because of your complexion? Where train commuters’ hearts beat a little faster when someone wearing a hijab steps aboard? A place where we are told that we are all equal but marriage equality was non-existent until a few months ago? So, are we not living in a “shithole” because we’re not in a state of civil war? Well, throw a group of Labor and Liberal supporters in a room, and I assure you, less will come out than the amount that went in.

Regardless of whether Donald Trump referred to those nations as “shitholes” or not, I can almost guarantee you it isn’t something any one of us haven’t thought or said before about developing countries. We are absolutely lucky to be given the life we have in Australia, to have the chance to live in a developed and prosperous country, and we all most definitely take our luck for granted. But, this whole “shithole” fiasco has got me a little confused, because I can look around and describe a shithole. This isn’t on individual countries; every nation has its problems, some more than others, but this is as a global problem. We all live in a “shithole”, and I think we all have some work to do.