Shayan Momin Momin 1 Mr. Pople AP English III, Period 7 12 October 2012 Rhetorical Analysis of “A Whisper of AIDS” In 1891, Voltairine de Cleyre wrote The Philosophy of Selfishness and Metaphysical Ethics, critiquing the selfish and egoistic mindset of society. This same mindset is critiqued by Mary Fisher in “A Whisper of AIDS”. She uses rationally emotional rhetoric in order to criticize this “self-ism” that exists in the world. Fisher begins by speaking of the non-existent impacts of movements that have attempted to raise awareness about AIDS.
She utilizes the word “despite” in consecutive phrases to show that “despite science and research” and “good intentions”, nothing significant has occurred because “the epidemic is [still] winning”. Through her usage of repetition, it is inferable that society has ignored these efforts due to the way of thinking that was scorched by de Cleyre. This ignorance from the public reveals how deeply rooted this “self-ism” is in our society. And to extend her point even further, she says that the “White House” has attempted to try to raise awareness about AIDS.
Her reference to the government further exposes the stubbornness of society to change their selfish way of life. She tries to say that even with the government pushing for this cause, the public still refuses to take action. But even the government isn’t doing much. Fisher mentions the “campaign slogans” and “hopeful promises” that were made by the government with a sarcastic tone. This implies that the speaker believes that even our federal government has a mindset of selfishness. But this is only the beginning of her attack on society. Momin 2
She goes on to blame society for the magnitude of the virus’s impacts. She says that by ignoring the virus and the people affected by it, society has “helped [the virus] along” and that we “have killed each other with our ignorance, our prejudice, and our silence”. Her usage of a list explains in what ways society has committed such a crime. And all of this is due to the existence of a mindset that promotes self-centration, a mindset that calls for the ignorance of all others who coexist with you. The connotation of “killed” has a double effect.
First, its negative connotation creates an image in one’s head of a mob of people destroying one another. It represents how severe the aftermath of the virus has been. The second effect, one that is deeper, and somewhat hidden, is that the word “killed” implies the killing of open-mindedness and selflessness. It shows how people hurt each other, knock each other down, and even kill each other for their own selfish desires. In this case, society has ignored the AIDS virus because they have the thought that “If I don’t have it, I shouldn’t care about it”.
This kind of thinking has lay ruin for the victims of this virus, who have been hurt even more due to the ignorance of society towards such a major problem. Fisher refers to empirics in order to prove the detrimental effects of having a selfish society. She speaks of how her grandfather had heard the Pastor Niemoeller say that when “[the Nazis] came after the Jews”, he didn’t protest because he wasn’t a Jew. When the Nazis “came after the Trade Unionists”, the pastor did not protest because he wasn’t a Trade Unionist. But when the Nazis “came after [the pastor]”, “there was no one left to protest”.
The parallelism used here helps to better define the impacts of a self-minded society, supporting the speaker’s main purpose which is to critique the “self-ism” that exists today. This quote is significant in another way as well. The way the pastor reacted to the Nazi invasion is the same way people are reacting Momin 3 to the AIDS and HIV virus. They are mirror reflections of each other. It shows that people will only learn when they are victimized. When this happened to the pastor, he then realized his mistake. But in this case, if people will only learn through victimization, the result would be catastrophic.
Fisher says how “a million” are infected now; if this is what is to happen, billions will be exposed to the virus. Through this foreshadowing, the author is able to convince the reader that self-centration will lead to our demise. Unless we become aware. Mary Fisher’s critiquing of society’s selfishness and self-mindedness makes the reader aware of the dangers of having such a mindset. Her purpose is to point out that in order to help raise awareness of HIV; we must first rid ourselves of such a malignant way of thinking.
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