May. 21st, 2014

In Stephen Lewis's article, Pandemic: My Country Is On Its Knees, he uses a combination of logos, ethos, and pathos to demonstrate his argument. As a person who is most effected by appeals to emotional senses I found his use of pathos to be most convincing, though I must mention that his use of ethos in describing his long term involvement, connection and understanding of African culture made me more inclined to be open to his perspective. I believe that for most people to be convinced of an argument that they were either previously against or neutral towards, a writer must make use of all three appeals, though depending on the topic and the audience, focusing on one a appeal over the others may be key. In this article I found the focus to be the use of pathos, which because of the nature of the topic, I found it to be very effective.
Early in the article Lewis reflects on the time he spent in Africa in the early 1960's, he described a very different Africa from the one we know today. He speaks of Africa being "a continent of vitality, growth, and boundless expectation" and how though Africa was poor it "wasn't staggering under the weight of oppression, disease, and despair" as it is today. Lewis then reflects on one the "saddest, most wretched experiences of his life" when he returns to the Eastern Region in the late 1960's to find that many of his former students had died in the civil war, which "proved to be a premonitory glimpse of things to come". In terms of the present day situation in Africa, Lewis uses a number of individual stories to demonstrate his argument. He describes how the AIDS Pandemic has decimated such a large part of Africa's population that many children are left orphans to be cared for by their elderly grandparents or in some situations, taken care of by other orphaned children. Lewis has conducted a number of interviews with these grandmothers and shares some of their stories in the article. One he shares is of a 73 year old woman who initially had refused to speak until the women collectively sang a song of solidarity and love. After the song, Agnes shares a short story of unbelievable heart break. She had lost all five of her adult children in a few year span and was left with four orphan grandchildren, all of which are HIV-positive. If this story doesn't appeal to a persons' emotional sensitivities, I don't know what would. Later in the article he describes an experience he had while visiting a pediatric hospital in Zambia where after hearing "otherworldly wail" he turns to see a young mother "crazed by loss" as a nurse places a sheet over an infants body and carries it away. He saw this same episode twice more in his forty minute stay. He then describes how coffins are in such high demand that a Catholic AIDS organization in Namibia has an income generating project of making paper maché coffins for infants and how they "can't keep up with the demand".
Lewis begins by providing the reader with a picture of what Africa once was, a place of hope and promise, and then paints a picture of the present day situation, "a quagmire of despair". Many of the examples Lewis provides demonstrates his use of the appeal of pathos to prove his argument that many countries in Africa are in great trouble, but there is hope if we can explore how such a promising continent got into this situation.

Discussion Question- Pathos is a common appeal used in humanitarian arguments, do you find that you are less affected by these stories than you think you should be? Why do you think that might be?



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