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17 May 2010


If you asked me to name the different types of communities in Brussels, I would talk to a certain extent of ethnic communities (Magreb and African), I might talk of religious communities (Muslim, and Jewish, but in both cases with a lot of difficulty in distinguishing what is ethnic and religious). But when it comes to 'whites’, I would talk of 'civil service', 'local government', ‘European Community workers', ‘Solvay’, ‘AXA’, ‘BNP-Fortis’. I would argue that, in particular, the large corporations operate much in the same way as village or small-town communities used to work. They provide a sense of belonging, of community, of values.

One thing that as a translator I am very conscious of is the sudden keenness of major corporations from about 2000 onwards to explicitate their own values – from about 2005 no decent public company in Belgium was without its statement of corporate values. What this tells me is that society is no longer seen as automatically providing them, through the church (if you come from a Christian background) or from enlightened education (if you are of the non-Christian ilk).

Are we, I ask, getting to the situation that, in an increasingly dishonest world (not-too-pure politics, tax, police), a major corporation is a refuge where you can be reasonably honest? If you are reasonably competent, enterprising and not too off-centre in your opinions, and if there is not someone being pistonné for family reasons ahead of you, you should be able to rise to a decent position. And, like in feudal society, a certain amount of protection in return for a fairly high degree of loyalty. A good place, at least for males, to join if you are looking for the job stability to found a family. At the same time I fear a general dumbing down, a lack of sophistication. And I do ask at times whether, leaving aside the high flyers featured in the internal publications, in many large Belgian corporations there are not an awful lot of women in their mid-thirties who would not have been happier to have been able to swap career for two or three kids by their late twenties and return to the workforce once kids are at secondary school.   

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anglomedved

October 2015

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