The house painter's dilemma or how to break the chain of devaluation

Why do we protect the floor with a tarp before painting a ceiling? Because tiling is expensive.

Why do we do regular maintenance on public transport buses? Because buses are expensive, breakdowns are even more expensive and accidents can be irreparable.

Why do we recycle waste? Because raw materials are expensive and because pollution is considerably more expensive.


However, everywhere in the world, and particularly in Tunisia, we often see the opposite. As if we were living in an opulent country which could afford to waste a great deal of its resources, its time, its energy, its citizens ...

What drives us to this wastefulness?


Let us take a closer look at the value chain.

We paint the ceiling without protecting the surroundings, because there is a cleaning lady, and she will manage to clean.

The bus may break down, but the driver will manage.

We don't sort the waste, we put it loose in a tiny and inappropriate bag, because the garbage collector is going to make do with it.

In these examples, a problem is knowingly created by a person who transfers the resolution of the problem to another, who is perceived as of lesser value. In this process, whoever has the means to act in anticipation places the responsibility for their shortcomings on a person who is less well paid, less well regarded and who has far less means to solve the problem.


value chain, valorisation of work, reciprocity in society, pollution, causes of under-development
Waste collection in Tunis - task "sharing" photoⓒVitaminn

The value chain becomes a chain of devaluation: the more we advance, the more value we lose.

Why do we leave it to a lower paid person, with less means to pay the price for our negligence? Of our small savings?

Is it because we do not value the work of the person who comes after us at its true value? Could it be a devaluation of the work of the other, and therefore a devaluation of the other?


Let us imagine that the work is valued differently, for example, the cleaning lady, the bus driver, the garbage collector earn 200 TND / day. We are definitely not going to let them waste so much time solving problems that should not even exist to start with without adequate means, right? The painter who comes before the cleaning lady would protect the floor with plastic, the maintenance manager would do the maintenance of the bus, the citizens would sort their waste and use appropriate bags, otherwise they would be exposed to heavy taxes or fines .

It seems that instead of perceiving the next person as having full value in the chain, and a need for specific means, we perceive them as less and that we neglect their needs. Thus, construction workers in flip-flops, with worn out tools, women farmers crammed into cattle trucks with dubious brakes, buses that end up in the ravine, etc.

Without the right resources, a person cannot provide the quality and quantity of work required. The value created is greatly reduced, so the product cannot be sold at the expected price, or else will require repairs, and the cycle of depreciation starts again.

Doesn't the chain of devaluation contribute to our development difficulties, one of those invisible chains that prevent us from taking off, despite our strengths and our skills?


What are we missing?

Hammurabi, reciprocity, management, social responsibility
Code of Hammurabi, Mesopotamia, ca. 3800 BC

The ancient Babylonian Hammurabi code provided that if a house collapsed and killed its owner, the mason who built the house was to be sentenced to death. A little radical yes, but it is about the principle of reciprocity which reminds us that our actions reverberate down the chain and have consequences with a tenfold impact compared to the first negligence. These consequences can be lost profits, but very often, too, lead to accidents, illnesses and sustains poverty.

The pandemic we are currently living reminds us of this violently (a little evening with friends can cause someone's illness).


It is vital to value all skills, to understand that at each link in the chain, every person has a value to provide and that they must be able to provide it. The output really depends on the input. To do this, the person needs the training, the tools, the necessary environment provided by her managers, clients, colleagues ... These conditions are absolutely independent of one's educational or social level.

This is the necessary condition to hope to be able to develop skills, quality, in short, value.


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