Public Services: Horror and Nightmare / Jose Hugo Fernandez

The Rapid of Ayesteran and Boyeros in Cerro. Photo: Jose Hugo Fernandez

Havana, Cuba, November, — In a state cafeteria called The Rapid, in the Havana neighborhood of Cerro, the clients do not have access to the television installed there for public purposes.  The equipment shows them only its backside while the screen remains facing the employees, who hoard it for their exclusive use.  It may be a trivial detail, but it really is an expression of a very serious conduct, on which rests the chronic crisis of public services in Cuba.

Because of a malformation that has become endemic and whose origins are rooted in the bad example and bad seed that the totalitarian dictatorship disseminated among us, the employees of this kind of public service seem to be convinced that it is their customers who owe service to them, not the other way around.

If bureaucrats abuse on a whim the time and patience of those who pay them to be attended to, or if the employees of the business and food receive customers as if they were intruders who slip onto their private property, that is not due only — as is customarily said — to the “employment unsuitability” nor to the big gaps in their school preparation.

The destruction of the culture of good service among us is above all a consequence and expression of the system of government that we have suffered in the past five decades. In fact, the regime itself represents the first major evidence of the problem, since instead of being a servant of the people, as all governments are required to be — in concept and in practice — it inverted the terms from the first day, making us its servants.

No analysis, no project to address the debacle of our public services, could be purely objective if there is no recognition of the basic causes and if it does not conceive of their eradication as a first step.

As in the oldest and and most rancid monarchies, Cuba is marked by many small fiefdoms. With the disadvantage that our offspring of feudalism reached a high in that it ceased to be functional even for the king’s own interests, and turned into  just a surreal counterproductive nightmare.

At the summit are the chiefs of the regime as absolute sovereigns. Then come the subordinated of power, who have their parcels distributed according to the influence of each group or individual, and how close they are to the king. In this direction the pyramid descends to the most ridiculous extreme. So anyone who is holding anything in their hands needs those who are lower on the scale, making a fiefdom of their limited domain. And in the end there are only the serfs, whom, moreover, also create tiny fiefdoms, such as public service employees.

Life right now is showing us that it was naive to think that with the opening of small businesses by the self-employed, that at least in this area headway would be made in improving customer service.

The truth is that in its fundamental aspects, the culture of good service is not enjoyed in the establishments and other means of self-employment. Both when they stop doing what they should, and when they do they should not, the way that most of the self-employed serve their clientele does not distinguish them as people who have had a change of mentality.

Negligence and sloppiness is so deeply rooted for so long among us, that it is not possible remedy it unless we start by removing the evil at its root.

José Hugo Fernándaz

Cubanet, 18 November 2013