So I wrote a paper for one of my classes about our failure to feed global populations, and a cartoon about starving children in Ethiopia. Please read on, for it is one of many great tragedies that we forget about, or turn a blind eye to. I only strive to awaken you, as it has awakened me. As always, thank you for your time.
Ethiopia: Far From Utopia
“Tigray province in the high, remote North is the ancient spiritual home of Ethiopia, mesmerizing in its rugged, isolated, hard beauty” (“CBC News In depth: Ethiopia”). This description of Ethiopia is tranquil, picturesque, and fanciful. Although many of us would like to buy into this image, or bury our heads in the sand, the reality of Ethiopia will not align itself with our fantasies until we take a long, hard look at the nightmare which we allow them to continue living. “On that first day, I glimpsed Ayano in the intensive care room, wrapped in a red and blue blanker, struggling to breathe, his eyes tipped back into his skull. When I next saw him, he was trussed up the blanket that had become his death shroud, lying on a slab next to two other small bundles in the morgue” (“Among the Starving in Ethiopia – TIME”). Just to paint a picture and put things in perspective, as I read this article and come across this description of unimaginable heartbreak, I noticed an advertisement directly to the right of these spine chilling words. It read: “Breakthrough in reversing wrinkles and signs of aging.” It is said that life in Ethiopia is cheap, but the haunting chants of the funeral wails would testify otherwise. Next time you look in the mirror and agonize over your newest wrinkle or gray hair, think beyond yourself and your aesthetic to these innocent, helpless children being stalked by vultures and tossed into ditches.
In Cam Cardow’s syndicated cartoon “Ethiopia,” he sheds light onto the tragedy that is the situation in Ethiopia, which could easily be entitled Niger, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, or increasingly countless others. He employs the use of logos, ethos, and pathos persuasions to speak to the heart, mind, or conscious of anyone who encounters his work. There is a picture of a starving, gaunt child with sunken in features, looking the reader in the eyes and thinking, “If I wait long enough, the media will eventually arrive” (Cardrow 457). Maybe it is because the media has been here before, and they are over it, but there is a lack of media attention. There is certainly enough to focus on with the war, oil prices, and Lindsey Lohan’s newest debaucheries. They justify that there is a lack of grave pictures depicting the horrors, however, it would be disgusting and disgraceful to wait until there are images of children being stalked by vultures, which there is, before they take action. This portion of the cartoon is employing ethos, the ethical residence within us. Cardrow is appealing to us by pointing out that these children are helpless, defenseless, and at our mercy, and they are.
The second frame shows that same child, in the same state, but this time thinking, “and expose one of the worst famines to hit Ethiopia” (Cardrow 457). Again, the media has been there before, dating back to 1980 when there was much hype over this still existing tragedy. The problem is that nothing has changed. “The reasons are paved in the good intentions of rich nations, good deeds that have punished Ethiopia with perpetual want” (“Among the Starving in Ethiopia – TIME”). In all areas of life, Americans are treating the symptoms rather than addressing and fixing the problem; take a pill and it will go away, shut off the alarm and deal with it later. We are giving these tiny creations of God a miniscule fish, and then going home to our warm beds and flat screens rather than taking the time and efforts to teach them to fish and care for themselves. I cannot quit asking myself why. People everywhere are starving, our environment is ailing, and our health is laughable. We are creating more and more sophisticated and interesting gadgets, but we are also creating our own destruction. There is a Grand Canyon between Education and Intelligence. We are more educated and technological yet our egos run our lives and our society. There is so much that we could do to help those crying out for us, yet we continue to pacify our consciouses by throwing a bone, never taking the time to truly create a revolution. We are willing to do anything, as long as it is convenient, does not make us uncomfortable, or interrupt our highly important lives. “Hundreds of millions are spent on immediate food relief because the popular notion is to alleviate the plight of starving children. But that means little is spent on economic development to prevent the shortages that led to hunger in the first place” (“Among the Starving in Ethiopia – TIME”). Cardrow is appealing to our logic (logos) by addressing the absurdity of the hamster wheel. Nothing has changed since 1980, it is obviously time to get off the wheel, and actually fix the problem. It makes sense, so what stops us, what are we waiting for?
The third frame shows the same child, this time staring blankly ahead, no longer acknowledging the reader’s presence, with the caption “Yep, should be along any minute now” (Cardrow 457). This child still clinging to a shred of hope has no other option, yet our silence speaks volumes. The fourth frame shows the same picture, but no caption. The fifth, the child is lying down on his side, with his back to us—hopeless, awaiting his fate. The last, the child is a skeleton—without any sense of loss or recognition from us, his “savior.” Cardrow is speaking to our pathos, our character. America is a beautiful institution, we are the Utopia that everyone else strives for and dreams about. We truly do have it in our power to change the world. We could stop funding wars, and start advocating and creating peace. We could focus even more efforts on the causes, and bleed less money into the pharmaceutical companies and healthcare system that turns its back on the “weak” and “powerless”—the unaccounted, unimportant, unrecognized. We can take our beautiful technologies and discoveries and implement them in these suffering countries, supplying them with the means to feed them for a lifetime rather than a moment.
As I glance at the advertisement for reversing wrinkles, I read further, becoming humbled by the words from a survivor from the Ethiopian famine in 1984; the girl whom reporters were talking about when they said, “I noticed her slumping to the pavement and called a nurse but it seemed too late…We left, to at least allow her dignity in death. Her grave was already being dug outside, alongside thousands of other victims” (“CBC News In depth: Ethiopia”). Birhan , now known as the “miracle girl” from the Great 1984 Famine gratefully stated,” I barely survived death but I came through. And today when I see so many beautiful things, I’m grateful to be alive. Always I say I could have been just dust by now, but I’m not. I’m alive to see beauty around me, and to see new things. I’m very happy” (“CBC News In depth: Ethiopia”). We should be affected by this. “There, but by the grace of God go I.” If Birhan can be grateful for something that none of us could even imagine, then we have a lot to learn, and can begin by taking action for those who are waiting for our mercy, our brothers and sisters.