Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Old and New

Kisses in the Nederends is least to say funny as hell- I mean with the farts and the literal pain in Oilei’s ass makes for laugh out loud comedy. Yet deeper in the text lay the true questions of tradition; how do they adapt to the new age? Do they still hold firm in modern society, or are they just a pain in the ass?

For one, I believe that traditions are important; they define us, and ultimately distinguish different races and individuals from others. While they create a certain unity, traditions are still one of those factors that aid in the individual’s quest for self expression. One person might practice something someone else, thus adding to their unique perspective. We need tradition, it is important, but as we all have witnessed, sometimes it can inhibit us. Hau’ofa in Nederlands is both showing how some traditions change while affirming that some still remain the same. He also, obviously, pokes fun at the times when various traditions do inhibit the people- when they can be a pain in the -yes- ass.

The most obvious example is in the question of modern medicine vs traditional medicine, the perfect catalyst for. Of course by the time the need for medicine rolls around, Olwei ‘s arse is in so much pain he is willing try any remedy that might bring him relief. That is except for modern medicine. Hau’ofa especially jests with the scene where Olwei is being ‘cured’ by Losana. It is an absolutely absurd scene that ends in an elaborate ritual that results only with Olewi in more pain, screaming some of the funniest profanity ever performed in recent literature. It is then with modern medicine that Olewi starts to gain some relief from his ailment. In his world the traditions of the past and new age medicine come together, they exist side by side. What Hau’fa seems to be saying here is that it is foolish to completely exclude one over the other, and through the incident affirms that one can still retain tradition. Here, Olwei was ignorant to new possibilities, and it cost him, it bit him in the ass. Just as Olwei was ignorant to a newer culture, so can others be to a native people and their own beliefs- a paradox, a reversal of ignorance showing that a cultural tradition can be just as biased as a newer more colonial people.

What’s also interesting is how Christianity is portrayed in the context of the novel. Again, we see the author making jests while at the same time questioning the role of tradition in modern society. The world of Nederlands is one that has vastly converted to Christianity and yet still retains ancient traditions passed on through their own separate culture. It is very much like how several pagan symbols and traditions became incorporated into own modern Christianity: “Although Tipotans had been Christians for over a century, they had not shed their fear of spirits. The new religion merely downgraded their native gods to the rank of malicious ghosts, who roamed everywhere and did horrible things to people.” (24)Again, some traditions don’t necessarily fade completely away. As seen here they adapt to the modern religion. Rather than dissipating the ancient gods, people still carry with them the unnecessary superstition and folklore that originally accompanied them. In this sense their stories and mythologies still exist in society, the oral tradition is still around but adapting to the new age.

The novel is not condemning either tradition or modernization, but rather begging the reader to not be arse and only choose one. When dealing with a homeland there can be many different aspects, many different traditions. Yet at the same time one must remember that they have the right to uphold any traditions or practices they choose and it shouldn’t be prevented just because of modernization. At the same time one should be open to new possibilities, new traditions.

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