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Cleaning as an ‘absolute value’

Cleaning is a vital indicator of a country’s culture

Cleaning is an important indicator of a nation’s modernity, civilization and culture. Cleaning is always a measure of collective freedom in which we celebrate the sense of respect for human beings and from which we can start to plan the future, explains Toni D’Andrea, Managing Director, Afidamp service srl.

‘Clean’ in a modern and possibly more refined interpretation embodies the sense of a state of positive behavior : clean play, clean business, clean politicians, clean look and clean conscience. It is in this new interpretation of the term ‘clean’ that today I would share a new vision and a new methodological approach to the topic. Cleaning is an opportunity to review a culture of behaviours and events of recent years in a sociological sense. I would like to share some judgments stated by Italian economist Marco Vitale who said that one of the first things to do in intellectual cleaning is to clean away ‘idols’.

The global trend that emphasises gross domestic product (GDP) as the economy’s supreme guide has been growing in recent years. However, in Robert Kennedy’s famous speech at the Kansas University in 1968 he stated gross national product measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. GDP is a purely numerical value, totally insufficient to measure a country’s economy from the point of view of quality. It is other values that make a country great such as its intellectual, scientific and moral abilities, certainly not its GDP value. Only including monetary transactions, GDP largely neglects people’s essential needs, for example some services provided totally free including caring for children and elderly people, cooking, cleaning and voluntary services.

GDP does not distinguish between monetary transactions that effectively increase the welfare and those which actually reduce it; does not distinguish between those which tend to preserve the status quo and those aimed at finding a solution to degraded situations. Most of what contributes to economic growth is perceived by a good number of people as a loss rather than a gain.

GDP considers crimes, divorces, solicitors’ fees and other symptoms of social crisis as places of profit.

To evaluate the GDP’s inadequacy as a measure of sustainable revenue, it has been tried to record capital loss (natural or produced by people) and expenses of social disadvantage using a number of techniques of environmental evaluation. Possibly, on this matter the most significant result has been achieved by a group of American economists who in 1989 developed a new measure called the ‘Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare’ (ISEW). In 1994, a group of activists called ‘Redefining Progress’ developed ISEW further, transforming it into the ‘Genuine Progress Indicator’ (GPI).

We must clean out wrong ideas

We were told, with great emphasis, and with the support of major universities and the western world’s media that the sprawling deregulation of financial markets would bring productivity and welfare for everyone; that social Darwinism is the only drive of development; and social solidarity is a negative factor because the market is the only scheme to keep social tissue together.

We were also told the economic differences between the richest and the weakest must increase to create a more vigorous push for development; it is necessary to privatise everything as the only way to save us from the inefficiency of the government; and capital gain must be at the centre of the system, as an indicator of development. American style globalisation that leads to homogenisation had to suit everybody because it was the best possible option. Now we know that all of that was not and is not true. And when in 2008, after long brewing the crisis landed on us, there was somebody who said that the crisis was not serious enough to require ‘a substantial revision of the objectives of economic policy or of the key concepts of how a market economy works’. Now we know that not everything is true and instead it is essentially a process of deep transformation. Well, to support this transformation it is necessary to clean away these wrong ideas that have deeply penetrated into society and are still among us. It is necessary and urgent to clean away thieves. In many countries criminals, corruption (and corrupters), bribers, public finance looters and people who evade their duties and their obligations, have reached such numbers and become so widespread that each one of us doubts the possibility to act and react in an effective way to clear up this area.

Relationship between legality and efficiency

History and statistics of Transparency International show stated, beyond any reasonable doubt, that there is a precise relationship between the level of legality in a country and the functionality of its socio-economic structures, between corruption and the degree of efficiency.

Many are the fields in which we can improve, so it is right to nurture commitment and hope; for this reason it is also necessary to clean up illusions, which are hope without substance, wishes without feasibility, and projects without value. The biggest illusion that we continue to nurture is the elusive way out of the crisis as if it were a date or an event that will mark the end of the crisis and the resumption of a discussion which has unfortunately erupted. There will not be a way out from the crisis and a resumption of the past. In Europe we will have to stop talking about crisis and, rather, talk about great transformation.

We are in the middle of a massive process of transformation that can take us to a better world and a better country. For this reason we must clear out, not to stop at it but to build on it and to encourage the creation of new opportunities. At this point the question is, ‘will we be able to understand, address and encourage the great transformation?’ For this reason we must clean up many anti-historical conceptions, many consolidated immoralities, many vain hopes that weigh down our thoughts and at the same time we must look to grow stronger through the crisis.

We cannot deceive ourselves to exit the crisis by magic or miracle. It is necessary to be aware that we must change the individual, entrepreneurial and social behaviour of every citizen. Innovating and enhancing talents in a cooperative way represents an effective direction towards a new socio-economic system. We must commit so that the great transformation can take place, not as a way out from the crisis, but a way to break away from perverse and destructive habits. We must challenge the present so that for everybody cleanliness becomes an absolute value and not like someone who cleans in front of his/her doorstep by pushing the dirt in front of mine.

Cleaning as an indicator of civilisation

One of the important aspects (tasks) of my job, for which I would like your approval, is to persuade the politicians and the ruling class that control the activities of every single country, to consider cleaning among the indicators of the modernity, civilisation and culture of a nation. This is because cleaning is always a measure of collective freedom in which we celebrate the sense of respect for human beings and from which we can start to plan the future.

When we go to work or go on holiday in a new country – in which we don’t know the level of social welfare or even the simple cultural position – we very quickly notice the level of standards that place, country, town, public or private service is able to deliver in terms of quality of life. There are three main indicators that precisely determine the degree of development or under development of a place. They are the maintenance of buildings, urban spaces and infrastructures; environmental cleaning of streets, public places, shops and restaurants; and the spread of environmental noise – the higher the decibel level in the environment, the lower the standard. Prague is a very clean city, São Paulo here in Brazil is fairly clean whereas Rome is the dirtiest of the three, even if the per capita income is definitely higher (about 6.5 times higher that of Prague and more than four times that of São Paulo). It is then necessary to develop a conscience of cleaning in the sense of wanting it, and strongly requiring it because the environment in which we live and the system of values we share are clean, the single person is naturally more inclined to this sense of cleanliness.

If the surroundings are dirty and we perceive them as communal spaces, then we feel more authorised to maintain bad behaviour or worse to develop a culture of indifference and non-caring towards the problem. In the last few months we have more frequently heard talk of a ‘Smart City’. It is the number one priority for many public administrators in the world, from China to Spain, from Brazil to Singapore, and from Canada to Denmark. It is about a model of a highly-civilised city based on new indicators of social welfare that can easily be summarised with these topics: Economy, Governance, Living, People, Environment and Mobility. Cleaning intended as an indicator of modernity must be given maximum importance to each of these areas including innovative and sustainable solutions to keep busy places clean; and delivering secure access to urban areas which are clean and well lit. All this contribution to clean and cleanliness induces civilised living. In this redistribution of responsibilities, cleaning becomes part of social integration. It is undeniable that a city which offers citizens clean and well lit areas, with street furniture that is well planned and maintained, is a city where individuals are naturally more inclined towards meeting, dialogue, community and cultural exchange.

Planning an industrial or commercial area or a city’s neighbourhood in an integrated way, so that it is easy to clean, run and manage – so that the maintenance interventions can be carried out in the most efficient and effective way, in total safety and with all available instrumentation and methods – produces an appreciable reduction in waste in terms of necessary costs for carrying out of the job and for respecting the environment in relation to consumption of energy, water and detergent.

These reflections lead us to consider two more key aspects of the value of cleaning: expertise and training. From a survey recently carried out in Italy it emerges that among the companies which run cleaning services autonomously, without using a cleaning contractor, 95% of them use domestic products and equipment easily be bought in shopping centres and only 15% of cleaners have a specific professional training qualification. This fact is a clear index of poor perception of the value that cleaning has on collective perception, except recognising later that a clean place is considered essential by the population.

Expertise first of all, not only in socio-health care facilities that are naturally subject to the use of specific products, instruments and methodologies, but also in hotels, shopping malls, public places and means of transport. Not applying appropriate methodologies and technologies can entail serious health risks for the worker and really high social health costs. Training represents an important component of this universe. In some countries training courses that emphasise the culture of cleaning and lead to identify the contact person for environmental hygiene are by now an essential experience.

A few months ago, during one of my journeys to Curitiba, I visited the headquarters of The Cleaning and Maintenance Foundation of Parana (FACOP www.facop.org.br). I have spoken at length with its director who explained to me the activity and the aims of the foundation. It is an example of how it is possible to create knowledge, professional qualifications, social integration, satisfaction and personal motivation at the highest levels.

Source: INCLEAN Magazine

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