community values

6. Money talks (dirty cash I need you)


I am severely overdrawn, and living in the margin between a meagre income and the bank’s overdraft limit. 

There has been little work over the summer, and much expenditure. Both children have needed to borrow money, and there have been upfront costs for the youngest’s imminent start at University.

And I have course fees to pay. 

After a degree, two Masters, and a PhD, this is only the second time in my life that I have paid for my education. Of course, I haven’t budgeted carefully for it and have to turn to my ex-mechanic octogenarian Dad for support. He is as generous as he has always been.

I know I have a problem with money. I have never liked it. It is the root of all evil. As a former economics student, I have always understood that the basic conceit of money — whilst convenient — is a prime building block for a society based on exploitation. A capitalist society, that is. Of course, capitalism in its early stages brings many benefits, but the rampant free market end-stage capitalism of our lives is another beast entirely. At some profound level, I refuse to partake in money’s destruction of our values, our communities, our planet. And, like a slighted lover, it therefore refuses to acknowledge me.

When I first encountered the deaf community, stumbling across it as a fresh graduate, it felt like socialist nirvana. Here was a society of people immunized from the worst effects of capitalist consumption through their marginalization. Capitalism simply couldn’t communicate with them. In its stead, they had forged a close-knit, non-hierarchical society founded on principles of fairness, openness and reciprocity. I loved it.

As part of the first wave of the professionalization of sign language interpreting, and campaigns for the recognition of sign languages, I now have to admit to my part in corrupting the deaf utopia I had discovered. Yet perhaps it was inevitable that capitalism would have found its way — the cochlear implantation industry alone is worth millions — and that a community hitherto starved of the market’s blandishments would rush to embrace it wholeheartedly.

It is karmic then, that the bottom is now falling out of sign language interpreting. This once community-oriented people-friendly practice has become a shark pool of agencies competing for contracts, and of interpreters increasingly forced to provide remote services, working to screens. The profession is being hollowed out.

I still love the deaf community with all my heart — I could never leave it — and will be forever grateful for the magic it has brought into my life, but I can’t stomach this form of interpreting. As opportunities for real, meaningful, warm work dwindle, my refusal to adapt to working for money, not love, leaves me a dinosaur in my own field. 

The writing is on the wall.