Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Anus Mirabilis

Remember when you were a kid and had a thermometer shoved up your ass? Remember the jar of Vaseline? Remember the dread? There are those who spend their lives running away from such experiences, either by way of geography, escaping to far way lands where there are no thermometers (there is a whole critical school which argues that this was the traumatic situation that produced The King and I), or by joining Christian Science or Scientology or choosing an ayurvedic cure in which there is no need for thermometers. But why all this phobia about fever, which is the body’s natural way of fighting infection?

Police officers get arrested for doing to suspects what some parents did to their children in the heyday of the anal thermometer. Was the insult to the anus all that it was cracked up to be?  The anal thermometer is a vestige of neo-colonialism, of a hierarchical world in which family life reflected the hegemony of the West over so-called underdeveloped countries. Children were told to be seen and not heard, and that applied to their medical treatments too. That is, until the release of Wild in the Streets (l968), the classic Shelley Winters vehicle in which children take over the world. In today’s society, where even infants tend to be well informed and five-years-olds have thousands of Facebook friends, it’s harder for a parent or a priest to get away with some of the abuse we have read about recently in the press. Children are empowered, and parents who eschew the armpit or the mouth had better beware that their child might end up calling a hotline and eventually forming a support group, where they can spend the rest of their lives blaming anachronistic forms of temperature taking for turning them into drug or sex addicts.

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