18 March 2011

[T]o the person we call fundamentalist, there is usually, I think, one bible only, and not much room for free debate about that particular bible's preeminence. If that's what Bible means or what it leads to - if it is a word that refuses its own plural - then I propose to you that the Bible is a powerful agent of discord and destruction, worthy of Satan himself. [...]

The Europeans who came to this coast in the 19th century were by no means all devoutly religious, but I think we can safely say that the vast majority had been brainwashed in two respects. They were conditioned to believe that, as Christians, they had privileged knowledge of the shape and purpose of human life and that as Europeans, they had innate superiority to the non-Europeans they might meet. Just having a bible in that sense, or being told that you have one, is enough to make almost any explorer, adventurer, or colonist an extremely dangerous vector. It isn't necessary ever to have read this bible in order to assist the propagation of its more Satanic effects. [...]

I take the view that translation is or ought to be essentially a form of listening - one intended to enable others to listen too. It seems to me there is something suspicious in a person who wants to learn a second or third or thirty-third language in order to talk instead of to listen, and something more suspicious yet in a person who wants to learn a language in order to export into it a text he already has, before discovering what riches the new language might enable him to hear. But a good many missionaries came to western Canada with just that antihumanist ambition.
"Scripture as an Instrument of Satan," lecture, Robert Bringhurst.

Bringhurst is a poet and the author of A Story as Sharp as a Knife (Douglas & McIntyre, 1999), a collection of Haida stories. He has been heavily criticized by some member of the Haida community for profiting from their heritage and for not spending enough time involved in their community. He has also translated ancient Greek.

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