So I went to a talk today. This was by a visiting speaker, who has traveled a very long way to be here. I don't want to give away the details, but let's just say that she was here talking about her book, which is newly translated into English. Her book is the story of her life, especially a recent struggle. The details of her life - which she was recounting - amount to a highly distressing story of injustice. The kind that is in danger of paralyzing you with its monumentality, but that is also meant to urge you to action on issues of indigenous rights, poverty, and gender equality.
The speaker did not speak in English. Her interpreter for this talk was a faculty member from the uni, who teaches one of the speaker's languages, and who translated both her presentation and the Q&A that followed.
The speaker had brought with her some crafts from her local area, which she was selling to raise money for the organization she works with.
BEFORE THE Q&A PERIOD WAS OVER, THE INTERPRETER FROM THIS UNI HAD LEFT THE PODIUM, LEAVING THE SPEAKER ALONE UP THERE, TO SHOP. Yes, the interpreter went over to the craft table and commenced pawing through it, turning the jewellery and dollls this way and that, being a shrewd shopper. Luckily, there was another faculty member on hand who could pinch-hit the remaining few questions.
I have to repeat it to myself because it's so hard to get my head around: The interpreter left the speaker before the talk was over, so she could acquire pretty things. (God, how can we expect courtesy from our students if faculty behave like this??)
This would be bad in any case, but the fact that it came in the context of this particular talk - the absolutely soul-destroying things that were being recounted? Shocking. Shocking.
In many ways, that was as important a comment on the "state of the world" - and the conditions of possibility for what the speaker was talking about - as the talk itself.