Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Motorcycle Diaries

I went to see an old woman with asthma, a customer at LaGioconda.

The poor thing was in a pitiful state, breathing the acrid smell of concentrated sweat and dirty feet that filled her room, mixed with the dust from a couple of armchairs, the only luxury items in her house.

On top of her asthma, she had a heart condition. It is at times like this , when a doctor is conscious of his complete powerlessness, that he longs for change: a change to prevent the injustice of a system in which only a month ago this poor woman was still earning her living as a waitress, wheezing and panting but facing life with dignity.

In circumstances like this, individuals in poor families who can't pay their way become surrounded by an atmosphere of barely disguised acrimony; they stop being father, mother, sister or brother and become a purely negative factor in the struggle for life and, consequently, a source of bitterness for the healthy members of the community who resent their illness as if it were a personal insult to those who have to support them.

It is there, in the final moments, for people whose farthest horizon has always been tomorrow, that one comprehends the profound traqedy circumscribing the life of the proletariat the world over.

In those dying eyes there is a submissive appeal for forgiveness and also, often , a desperate plea for consolation which is lost to the void, just as their body will soon be lost in the magnitude of the mystery surrounding us. How long this present order, based on an absurd idea of caste, will last is not within my means to answer, but it's time that those who govern spent less time publicizing their own virtues and more money, much more money, funding socially useful works.

There isn't much I can do for the sick woman. I simply advise her to improve her diet and prescribe a diuretic and some asthma pills. I have a few Dramamine tablets left and I give them to her. When I leave, I am followed by the fawning words of the old woman and the family's indifferent gaze.

"The Motorcycle Diaries...Notes on a Latin American Journey"

Ernesto "Che" Guevara

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