For at least a year now, a unique form of civic republicanism has been occurring in the second stall on the right in the first floor bathroom of Mason Hall. Various members of the Michigan student body have collectively covered the stall with images and phrases regarding a fictional being they call “Lobster C***” (I apologize for the vulgar name). Lobster C*** is exactly what he sounds like: a combination of a lobster and a male penis. He is presumably inspired by Jonah Hill’s drawings of male penises in the movie “Superbad” but it is unlikely that we will ever know his true origin. In these images, Lobster C*** is portrayed as an all-powerful superhero, with phrases written about him saying things like “Lobster C*** uses his claws of justice to tear down the rhetoric of hate” and “All hail the all-powerful Lobster C***”. These drawings are painted over very frequently by the school, yet images of Lobster C*** keep reappearing with phrases like “Paint cannot defeat Lobster C***” and “Like a phoenix rising from the ashes Lobster C*** will emerge from the paint”. In fact, the Lobster C*** phenomenon has extended to other bathrooms around campus as well, like the bathroom on the third floor of the Hatcher Graduate Library. If you want to see pictures of Lobster Cock, here is his official Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001765296077.
Lobster C*** may seem like nothing more than a juvenile prank, and quite frankly it is very juvenile. However, regardless of whether it is juvenile or not, I think it is still a good example of old-fashioned civic republicanism. There have been several blogs this semester describing how communication technology and social networking has revitalized civic republicanism as seen in the Arab Spring, but in the case of Lobster C***, students who don’t know each other and are not organized in any way have come together to participate in a group project of decorating a bathroom stall with the same theme. The authority figure (in this case the University of Michigan) has tried to silence their expression numerous times by painting over it just as many rebellions and artistic movements have been attempted to be silenced by authority figures throughout history. However, this group of civic republicans has persisted in their common goal of turning the second stall on the right in the first floor bathroom of Mason Hall into a shrine for Lobster C***.
This all might seem very stupid and trivial to you. However, just because the goal that a group is working towards isn’t particularly noble or significant doesn’t have anything to do with whether it is a form of civic republicanism. Lobster C*** may not be about a political revolution or democracy. However, I believe it says a lot about the ability and desire of people to come together and fight for a common goal, whatever it may be, despite never being organized or communicating with one another directly. I also believe Lobster C*** represents a struggle over freedom of expression. It reminds me of a topic I studied in History 322 (a class about Nazi Germany) last semester: the Dada cultural movement that spread through central Europe around World War I. The Dadaists rejected the need for art to have meaning and society’s obsession with logic, favoring artistic anarchy instead. Dada artworks, arguably the most famous one being Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, which is simply a urinal and nothing more, don’t have any particular meaning and aren’t supposed to. European governments attempted to marginalize and silence the Dadaists, just like the University of Michigan has tried to silence Lobster C***’s artists, but they have continually failed. (You can read more about the Dada movement here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dada). I encourage all of you to check out Lobster C*** in the second stall on the right in the first floor bathroom of Mason Hall and even contribute to him if you want. If you do, you will be participating in a unique form of civic republicanism that is just as pure as protesting in the Diag or signing an online petition. Also, let’s be honest, Lobster C*** is hilarious. You know you love Lobster C***.