To preach an ideology, it’s indispensable to trap people with catchy slogans and a patchwork of ideas – some true, others not.
I think that among the most irksome, abhorrent and absurd ideological occurrences of the 20th century is the fact that socialists were incapable of globally upholding the flags of freedom. Instead, they ignobly handed them to the defenders of private enterprise. The “they” were, of course, State socialists.
The (neo)liberals, under the slogan of “freedom to choose,” undermined and brought down the welfare states —built by State organizations— and delivered the world to the situation we live in today.
The age of buying so easy on credit has ended. It will be necessary to work harder and have less fun. Those who don’t fit in the system will be left outside the cosmos that the system has been slowing creating.
Cuba is not foreign to that problem.
We are so tired of the same thing over and over again; we want to be able to choose. It seems that we’re going to have micro-enterprises operating at full capacity and with their wage-labor work forces. We will soon be able to choose what sandwich we wish to eat while the owners create jobs for the proletarians from the ranks of a reserve army of the unemployed.
However not everything is question of sandwiches.
Choosing your doctor
A few days ago, I went to an informal seminar on how to cope with and handle pregnancy and female postpartum. The expecting mother is assigned to the hospital where she will give birth (except if “by chance” she arrives to another hospital if contractions have already begun).
Attending the seminar was a single-mother, a teacher of Latin American students, who recalled how she had to explain that situation to one of her pupils (“Teacher, have you already chosen the maternity hospital where your daughter will be born?”). The poor child had trouble understanding how things really work.
The same mechanics apply to any sick person.
Each of us is assigned to a specific “family doctor,” and not another. If this assignment cannot be changed via the official route, it may however be achieved through “personal relations.”
The “family doctor” is not a Cuban invention; in England it’s called “surgery,” and is administered under the National Health System – completely free. This was an achievement of the Labour Party (that of earlier times, not of New Labour).
Once, when studying at the London School of Economics and while I was in the library, some Cubans comrades and I got into a dispute by e-mail with an official from the Ministry of Culture. The exchange gave me a tachycardia (an excessively rapid heartbeat), right there in front of the computer. So, I left for “surgery” on the corner to see if they could take my blood pressure. “Are you registered with our doctors?” they asked. “No? Then you had better go to the surgery where you’re assigned, and there you’ll be attended.”
On another occasion, here in Havana, a young woman was in the middle of an asthma attack but was not accepted at CIMEQ, the Cuban hospital for ranking officials. The irony lies in the fact that the woman worked in one of the scientific research centers whose workers do in fact have the right to be treated at CIMEQ; the only problem was that she had still not been issued her related ID card.
I’ve heard that in Sweden you can choose what doctor will attend to you, and this treatment is free. However, these physicians are paid through the public health plan according to the number of patients they serve and the complexity of those cases. Obviously, the doctors most sought after do better.