Friday, 4 January 2013

The Unknown Achievement of the Revolution

In Raul Castro and Cuba – A Military History, Hal Klepak discusses three social challenges that could ruin Cuban families before the Revolution. These were:
  1. Over-stretching financially in an attempt to send a son to school and university so his new social and professional position could bring the whole family up by its bootstraps
  2. Significant illness in family, the cost of which could devastate even well-off families
  3. The cost of a proper, respectable burial for one’s parents with a fine plot, monument, feast and well remunerated priest
Everyone knows about Cuba’s achievements in the fields of education and health, but Klepak gives a fascinating insight into a little-known area of Cuban social policy:
 “Even in the less dramatic field of proper burials, the Revolution moved soon to provide a civilized system that would take the terrible psychological and financial burden off the family’s shoulders. The state now provides the plot for a family’s loved ones. It also ensures that the deceased will be brought from anywhere on the island for burial where he or she wished at no cost to the family. In addition, the stone for the burial, while hardly monumental or luxurious, is provided as is the general maintenance of the plot in the future. Transportation for the friends and family members of the deceased, by bus or even taxi, is also covered by the state.

Perhaps even more striking for a socialist, and for a long time even an atheist, state, the government also provides at its expense a priest for the mass and the chapel or related arrangements necessary for decent Christian burial. And when the ceremony is over, the state provides a decent if frugal reception for all who have attended the event”
What would the equivalent be worth in the UK? Many people save for years to cover funeral costs and considerations include the cost of making a will, funeral planning, venue hire, coffin, memorial cost, flowers, death notice, catering for the wake, a plot for burial and headstone. The average burial in the UK costs £3,307 and the typical cremation costs £4,954 – whilst the emotional stress caused by a loved one’s death is unquantifiable.

Yet Cuba continues to provide this service for free and, once again, leads the way in the field of egalitarian social care.

1 comment: