The Rosetta Stone takes pride of place at the British Museum. As with most of the merchandise within its hallowed walls, it was stolen. And as with a lot of stolen goods in London, it had already been pilfered once. By the French in this case. The task of deciphering hieroglyphs using the three texts became a major challenge for academics on both sides of the Manche. But it is not just symbolic as the key to unlocking a dead language, it is also symbolic of how empirical forces use translation to dominate other cultures.
Every colonial force has something to offer to its colonies, defense from other powers, education, technology, know-how and so on. But as we know all too well there’s no give without take. But how do foreign forces make others obey their laws? Of course, in colonial efforts which involve linguistic assimilation, education and administration are done in the language of the imposing power, and so new generations find that their parent’s language is only useful at home. If one is to integrate into society one must follow the rules written in the new language, as was the case, for example, in the colonies of the Spanish, French, Dutch, etc.
Modern Europe, much like the ancient Middle East, uses a different strategy, translation. They follow the same principle that has served since ancient Athens, where it was decreed that the only law to be upheld was written law. Back then, as with the Egyptians, the most ready, durable medium for these written laws was stone and so they were left around for citizens to read (those who could). In Greece evidently there was little need for translation, but the Egyptians ruled different populations. And rather than indoctrinating them with their language (in fact, some of the languages were reserved for certain social categories) they translated their decrees and left them on display for all to read, from when the RS.
The internet and modern media has allowed Brussels to dominate in the same way by diffusing its rules translated into the languages of all Member States. It is next in line to claim that it has power over populations. No one can deny not having been able to know the law as so-called lawmakers have spent the time and money ensuring it is readily accessible.
What makes this whole story much sadder is the attitude among translators. At best they think they are playing a fundamental role in helping civilizations communicate and at worst they are passive and unresentful slaves doing the bid of the power-hungry.