Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Medicine in Kisses in the Nederends

Kisses in the Nederends is far and away the funniest book that we have read this semester. Hau’ofa employs a few comic tools to great effect in his novel. These include gross exaggerations, ridiculous conversations, situations, and portrayals of people and most importantly- the actual subject matter. Hau’ofa managed to write an entire book about someone’s ass and its gaseous discharges. On the surface this seems like it is an incredibly shallow and off-color topic but upon closer examination, we can see that it is anything but that.

Satire is the name of the game when it comes to talking about Kisses in the Nederends. Hau’ofa used Oilei’s condition to draw attention sociological norms and expectations. Discussion of the anus is normally relegated either to strictly medical matters or as inside jokes amongst friends. Dedicating an entire novel to it on the other hand is unheard of, and many would consider it risqué. In this sense Hau’ofa is using the topic to shock his audience with something that is ordinarily considered taboo. By doing this, and by doing it in such a hilarious way, he is able to bring up some very serious issues that would otherwise raise a bunch of contention.

The most notable issue that was brought up and that popped out to me was at the end of the novel with the anal transplant. Clearly because of the tenor of the book, medicine is a continuous subject. There is the issue of traditional medicine versus Western medicine. “I don’t need your help. If I want help I’ll go to the hospital. I hate bush medicine.” (p. 10) But even when Oilei went to the hospital, their resources were not up to par. His pills were expired because, although they practiced western medicine in the hospitals, they were not able to get things that we take for granted in the United States.

These issues made me begin to think about how lucky we are in our homeland to have access to such good medical care- medical care that is governed by strict ethics. This is not to say that the doctors portrayed in Kisses in the Nederends are not ethical but it just got me thinking about United States medicine versus other countries. We never have to worry about pills that we get in a pharmacy being expired or a lack of proper equipment or training. The anal transplant also had me thinking about organ transplants. "Sister Agnes, go to the Spare Parts Chamber and fetch an appropriate anus." (p. 146)

My father is a doctor and went over to China to teach the Chinese medical society about using artificial valves and other artificial equipment instead of just using human heart transplants. He is a very conscientious surgeon as well as a Catholic, and during his trip to China he witnessed some appalling scenes. When citizens in China are convicted of a crime, the authorities do blood tests. Even if the citizen was guilty of only a speeding ticket, if their blood matches that of someone on donor lists that are closed except to those with a lot of money, they are charged with a capital crime and executed. My dad said that at the prisons the prisoners are lined up and right after the firing squad finishes, ambulances and doctors rush to the bodies to harvest the organs for transplantation.

In the United States we have strict ethics regarding organ harvesting and donation. People must declare that they want to give their organs after their death, and even if someone is brain dead, a panel of doctors must meet on an ethical board to decide when to pull the plug, and if it is appropriate to use the organs. As citizens of the United States, we are incredibly lucky to have access to such ethical institutions. We had no control over the place of our birth and our lot in life is so much better because of the medical resources available to us versus other countries like China, or the imaginary island of Hau’ofa’s Kisses in the Nederends.

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