4 July 2010
I am increasingly aware of spiritual hazard of my own profession of translator. Increasingly I am translating by people having particular value systems, which are often subtly different from my own Christian one. I suspect that fifty years ago, a company was rarely a value system in itself: its employees subscribed to one of the other of the value systems prevalent in society, in the social groupings ('tribes') which they saw themselves as belonging to. With business companies (and other large employers also) becoming people's sole tribe, their role in providing value systems has increased enormously. I see here three main weaknesses. The first is that value horizon goes not much further than the workplace, with little meaning ascribed to what is done outside work. In a society which is built up of a series of such tribes, those ‘untribed’ (the unemployed, the unemployable, the retired) have little social meaning. The second is that there is little or no room for any praeter-human reference: humanism is a virtue, holiness not. The third is that the ‘priesting’ of these tribes is often subcontracted to outsiders – the ubiquitous copywriter –with no deep attachment to the ‘tribe’ and a generally shallow ‘gospel’.
After translating a week for such a company, you need to stand back and ask whether what you translated was not spiritually unbalanced and whether any of this unbalance has not transferred to you.