Tocqueville once wrote of the necessity a society had to see the poor, to be reminded of their poverty, and the differences between us. Just this year I found myself standing in a long line outside a massive cathedral in Sevilla,Spain. It was, as it so often is in Spain, hot as Hades. I had had a bad night’s sleep as I had slept in a parking garage the night before and was somewhat irritable to boot, when all of a sudden the line rounded a corner and I saw an old woman, her face more wrinkly than a prune. Her hollow cheeks like rough basalt stone. I could tell she was poor, but this alone was not what struck me. It was her withered arms that came to two ends as wizened stumps uprooted, torn, and beaten by the sands of time. Shrunken by the sun, her skin clung like a brown spider to her bony arms. Between these two almost useless knobs she squeezed a small ragged hat, which she stared steadfastly at, hardly daring to look up from the shame she probably felt from begging.
My heart stopped as I stared in pity at this old warrior, for a moment I wondered on the social injustices of life. I felt a longing to do something for her, to take her away from her lot of begging, but I couldn’t. I left with the sad reality that sometimes life just isn’t fair.
I can imagine a similar feeling pricked the heart of a young Karl Marx one day after seeing the condition of the working class; except, unlike me, he decided something could and should be done. And thus the idea of communism was born; it was a way to force life to be fair. And it was a belief that made millions’ hearts burn.