When I decided to take this class, I knew that I wanted to gain something from this course, but I did not know how immediately the ideas brought up in class would start to connect with me. When I woke up on Monday morning, just one days into my junior year of college, I had immediate tooth pain. It was the kind of pain that keeps you up for hours at night as you switch from applying hot water for fifteen minutes to applying ice for fifteen minutes just to keep yourself busy so you don’t lose your mind or your patience. After two days of this I knew it was time to drive myself to one of the four dentists in Geneseo and found out it was a root canal Continue reading “A Medical First Week at Geneseo”
*** I will attach links to websites at the end of the post with botfly-related images***
After reading Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild”, I decided to do some more research on one of the inspirations behind the story…botflies.
With regards to these somewhat terrifying insects, Butler states, “In particular, I was worried about the botfly- an insect with, what seemed to me then, horror movie habits.” After doing some more research of my own, I see now why she refers to these pests as having “horror movie habits”.
Introducing The Botfly:
- found in Central and South America
- 12-18mm long
- “bumblebee appearance”
- eggs transported through blood-feeding insects or injected staight into host (ew!)
- eggs hatch when there is a temp. change ( ex. the intake of blood from an insect)
- Cattle & dogs are common hosts
- larvae cause D. hominis myiasis (skin lesions) in humans
- treatment in humans involves a simple surgical procedureOne aspect of the botfly that is the most prominent in Butler’s work is the egg laying/larvae process. In the story, we can see this with Bram Lomas and his condition. Much like the hosts of the botfly, Lomas was infected. When T’ Gatoi cuts into Lomas’ body, she finds several “grubs” infested in his skin, eating away at his flesh. Furthermore, T’ Gatoi places several parasitic worms from Lomas into the belly of an achti so that they can burrow and grow. Similarly, botflies lay their eggs in hosts so that they can grow and thrive.
Like Butler, writing about these insects did make them seem more interesting (but for me they are still terrifying!
I arrived at this class with little or no knowledge of the subject. I wasn’t sure how I would like the class since I wasn’t really interested in medicine and had only a minimal knowledge on the topic of racism (through high-school history classes, social media, and current events). My initial reaction to the class was probably more on the negative side. I wondered what could racism possibly have to do with medicine? I wasn’t familiar with the subject and we never discussed it in high school. Nonetheless, after doing research and learning about racism and medicine, and their correlation, I have grown curious and interested in this topic.
This tangent may seem slightly off topic but it actually brings me to an important point. The reason I am so uninformed about the correlation of medicine and racism may not be a coincidence, rather due to the inaccessibility of these sources. In Medical Aparthied, Harriet A. Washington describes that many of the medical records of experimentation are not easily accessible. Washington begins the novel by explaining that there has been an mistreatment of African Americans in general, but specifically in the medical field. The author goes on to list various examples of issues in medical research with African Americans. These include but are not limited to historical cases and some more contemporary.
On page 1, Harriet Washington refers to a well-known women’s doctor, James Marian Sims, who had many breakthroughs but who also had a dark past regarding medical experimentation on African Americans. Despite performing many gruesome surgeries, Sims is still praised for his medical breakthroughs and contributions to women’s surgery. Another more contemporary example of this idea is found on page 8. Washington refers to a case in which the Medical College of Georgia used stolen African American bodies for physician training. Although this was a terrible incident, it was overlooked due to the school’s prestige.
Harriet A. Washington’s introduction to Medical Aparthied conveys many crucial themes, one of which is the idea that African American’s side of the story was not well represented. Rather than portraying the abuse and records of experimentation of African Americans, the breakthroughs of upper class white doctors was magnified. A Nigerian proverb on page 8 states “Don’t let the lion tell the giraffe’s story.” Unfortunately in our world, the lion told it. Although there are many medical records, they do not account for the pain that many African Americans went through and are going through. The author also states that many of these documents are hidden away.
It’s disturbing to me that this topic is not often talked about. In a plethora of ways, it is wrong that people like James Marion Sims are glorified when they have committed such monstrous acts. Although it isn’t the most lighthearted topic, it is imperative to address the evident mistreatment, abuse, and experimentation of so many innocent people.
There is no single story or event that defines a person’s life. Instead, we have countless stories that define who we are. Unfortunately, today we live in a society where people easily point fingers, or are quick to stereotype. The problem is that these stereotypes prevent people from knowing the whole story. I thoroughly appreciated Chimamanda Adichie’s Ted Talk, especially with some of the recent political events. Adichie says that we are always quick to blame a corrupt or tyrannical group for any problem that may occur. Continue reading “A Desperate Need for Change”
It was a pleasant surprise to find last week that I enjoyed “Bloodchild” even more the second time I had to read it for a class. Part of the cause for my newfound enjoyment was probably knowing what to expect. I was prepared for the visceral rejection I felt when reading descriptions of T’Gatoi’s arthropodal form, when reading about what I consider to be an unhealthy relationship, when reading about interspecies impregnation. In many ways, the story Butler claimed to write as an inoculation against her fears worked as a vaccine against my own discomfort as well (Butler, 30). But I think a far more significant source of joy in my second time through the short story was its pairing with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. They seemed an unlikely match to me on syllabus day, but, having taken classes with Dr. McCoy before, I decided to swallow my preconceptions about both works and enthusiastically observe the conversation in which they were engaged. Continue reading “An Unlikely Marriage”
“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance”
In learning more about the disgusting history of racism in America, the above quote by George Bernard Shaw springs to mind. Considering the gruesome and inhumane pseudo-scientific practices that governed the eugenics movement in this country before and after the civil war, I find the wisdom of his words hard to deny. As a member of a proud, medically-minded community here at Geneseo, the abuses of those in our chosen field are particularly hard to hear about. However, to turn away from the topic in disgust and simply ignore the actions of past physicians would only make us complicate in their crimes. What disturbs me most is that those who participated in the abuses of African-American men and women did not do so secretly to hide their shame from the world, but did so openly without consequence, often to the approval of their fellow White citizens who saw them as saviors and their “patients” as little more than laboratory specimens.
The lesson we can all learn from these atrocities is just how devastating false science can be in its destructive potential. Long accused of being superstitious and irrational in their iatrophobia, the history of abuses against African-Americans gives credibility to such beliefs, ironically contributing in part to the poorer health outcomes among African-American populations. Even today, one does not have to look far in America to find dubious scientific claims being treated like religious dogma. The Anti-Vaccer movement, for example, continues to site disproved evidence concerning the link between vaccines and autism while well-meaning but poorly informed people continuously raise concerns of genetically modified food long put to rest by the scientific community.
Perhaps the worst crime committed by false science is that it competes with and often undermines real scientific study. Science is an imperfect process; a method of research that is laborious, multi-faceted, and time-consuming. It does not lend itself to sweeping proposals or sensationalism. Though often fascinating in its discoveries, it is essentially boring and struggles to compete with the emotional and often vindicating results pseudo-science provides to its adherents. Worse still, it can often masquerade as genuine science for years, as seen with the eugenics movement and persistent scientific agreement on the inferiority of non-white races. This undermines the trust given by the public to scientific endeavors and in turn makes it harder to pursue actually discovery.
There is no one solution for confronting the issue of what Churchill called “perverted science.” Although I’m sure education will help prevent the persuasion of those more skeptical students, confronting the close-minded zealotry that often accompanies pseudo-science will be much harder to overcome. Skepticism towards science helped elevate the least qualified candidate in modern history to the office of the president and has begun seeping into our institutions and poisoning the way the world views us. We owe it to ourselves and our fellow citizens to be responsible in the use and dissemination of knowledge and to work so that truth will always prevail in the face of false prophets.
In Friday’s class, we briefly discussed the concept of how people have to “pay the rent” in life. Dr. McCoy brought up an idea that would involve exploring how students pay the rent while attending school. After class, I started to think of ways that as a student I am undoubtedly “paying the rent” in regards to doing things that I would not necessarily do, but are obligated to because of certain circumstances. Students pay the rent in obvious ways such as attending class, completing their homework, writing papers, etc. But there are several other ways that we pay the rent that aren’t as obvious.
There are certain social interactions that are necessary such as the natural human tendencies to want to make connections with other people. We are often thrown into situations in college where we are out of our comfort zone and feel a sense of duty to make the most of the experience we are given. While this experience is filled with both positive and negative attributes, paying the rent refers more to the negative aspects of college that we pay attention to. Sometimes you’re going to be doing group work with people you don’t get along with. Other times you will run into the exact person you are trying to avoid. Living on a college campus and attending school will often put you in very stressful situations that you would not encounter otherwise. But we all pay the price in exchange for several benefits such as receiving a college diploma and growing as a human being from these unique experiences. As long as paying the price ultimately rewards you with something you deem important, the small sacrifices made are worth it.
The concept of “paying the rent” is also prominent in Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild” because some circumstances that Gan ends up in deal with issues that address a lack of consent and a lack of awareness for what he was getting himself into. In the same way that we consent to attending college but do not consent to the struggles that are embedded in it, Gan does not entirely consent to what he experiences when he agrees to help T’Gatoi. T’Gatoi’s warns him that what he was going to experience would be bad, but Gan could never fully consent to the gruesomeness of what he was about to see. Even after agreeing to help her, she instructs him to help in ways that Gan did not feel comfortable doing. For example, she viciously instructs Gan to help her by having him kill an animal:
“I want no argument from you this time Gan” she said.
I straightened. “What shall I do?”
“Go out and slaughter an animal that is at least half your size.”
“Slaughter? But I’ve never—”
She knocked me across the room. Her tail was an efficient weapon whether she exposed the sting or not (Butler, page 6).
Gan, after feeling threatened by T’Gatoi, helped her save a N’Tlic’s life that had arrived at their door pleading for help. Gan wanted to help T’Gatoi because he has so much respect for her, but he did not know the extent of what he was getting himself into. In a way, Gan is “paying the rent” by offering to help T’Gatoi without really realizing what he needed to do in order to help. The experience of helping T’Gatoi save the N’Tlic man was quite disturbing. Even if Gan decided he was not ready to help, he was already in a situation which pushed him to experience more than he may have wanted to.
“Paying the rent” in any situation causes individuals to end up in scenarios they may not have consented to. In life, we are obligated to complete certain tasks and put ourselves in certain situations where we are not comfortable. “Paying the rent” ensures a level of discomfort; but we must weigh this discomfort with the benefits that it can have. By attending college, you get certain rewards for all of the struggled you faced without your consent. Additionally, Gan benefited from “paying the rent” because he was able to gain respect from T’Gatoi and his family for his commendable and heroic actions. Although he struggled in doing so, he gets to obtain the reward from his actions. There are benefits to “paying the rent” if you are willing to deal with the struggles that are guaranteed with it.
On Friday, Dr. McCoy brought up the difficulties Octavia Butler had with her readers’ reactions to Bloodchild, namely the insistence that it was about slavery, even though Butler herself said that it wasn’t. This is something that all writers struggle with; how can I make the themes of my story, poem, etc. clear to readers? How can I be sure that they will understand the message I’m trying to convey?
When posed the questions what brings people together and what binds people together it’s hard to distinguish between the two because it’s possible to bring and bind people simultaneously. However, by definition bring and bind are different.
In class, we mentioned some examples of what brings people together. They were location, upbringing, chance, choice, religion, culture, language, hardships, and similar goals. On the other hand, when we discussed what binds people we said religion, blood ties, perception of an event, going through a tragedy, documentation, and lasting through time. My thinking process for this class began with this: Continue reading “What brought and bound Romeo and Juliet”
After discussing the significance of the use of the word “eye” and the role physical beauty has in William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, it sparked some debate about marriage in the Elizabethan era and its relevance in Modern Day America. Was this because of the patriarchy and the social constructs of Shakespeare’s time, or was this simply just a case of love at first sight? Continue reading “Marriage, Shakespeare’s Elizabethan Era, and Modern Day America”