Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"I Fart in Your General Direction!"

A professor of mine once commented that fart jokes have been around for centuries; from Shakespeare to Chaucer, and seen within the evolution of (contemporary) media, jokes about or related to flatulence and bathroom humor continue to humor the world. It is a biological fact that everybody farts; there are, however, social, or child (like) “beliefs” that important social icons do not fart (farting is funny with your friends), or that women do not fart (and if they do, it is nowhere near the ostentatious manner and/or odor that accompany those farts of men).

While I do not remember much about him since graduating from middle school, I do remember one specific episode from seventh grade which stars the aforementioned person, and includes his twenty-five or so other classmates. One school-day afternoon, while our teacher had stepped out of the classroom, this male (back then just a boy) (who shall remain nameless), had let out one of the biggest, loudest, and most odorifous examples of flatulence in my early lifetime that I had ever witnessed. The girls “eww’d”, the guys laughed for a solid minute, and when the teacher came back, classroom etiquette had been restored. Aside from the fact that remembering someone based from an episode as such is not a great thing, it does seem to relate to not only the readings today, but society as a whole.

When we raise our hands and ask permission (or just walk out of the classroom, excusing ourselves) to go the restroom, we, as an educated whole, do so in an orderly and routine manner. There is no mention of having to go to the bathroom (along with it’s indicators of gas or belching) before, or having gone after, the biological deed has been completed. It seems, to me, that restroom use falls under the category of things that “nobody wants to talk about, although it exists quite commonly and frequently almost everywhere” –it is an “elephant in the room”.

Taboos and unordinary happenings can also be placed under this heading as well. In his Kisses in the Nederends, Hau’ofa uses satire (among other things) to seemingly bring up those “elephants in the room” that exist among his society. I think one aspect in society he satires is the state of health care and medicine (e.g. at the “first International Conference on the Promotion of Understanding and Co-operation between Modern and Tradition Sciences of Medicine”—the name in itself is ridiculous, where—“in the whole conference, there was hardly anything said about the sick and the diseased” (29). If there does exist a problem in health care (e.g. lack of [universal] health care in the U.S.) in Hau’ofa’s world, it gets harder to ignore when (Oilei) it is right in front of you (literally farting in your face).

Maybe Hau’ofa is also commenting on the gossip that occurs in towns and grouped populations, especially among women: two scenes in where this seems evident are the part where Rita runs into every woman on her way to Marama (a healer), every woman who already knew the business of her husband with the loud farts and painful body aches, and the scene where Marama “diagnoses” Rita as being an incurable snorer. Whether we choose to talk about it or not, I think it would be safe to say that women do gossip among everyone they know (especially in high school), and that men aren’t the only ones who snore in their sleep (or fart for that matter). The situation appears as Marama suggests, “your different perceptions of what happened are very important” (11). And, like we suggested in class, our differing perceptions allow us to see the humor Kisses, as well as the more serious undertones in the novel, which seem to comment on the tension or situation between traditional and modern “ways”.

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