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Poll: You are asked to do an assignment for a company whose ethics you disapprove of. What do you do?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 03:28
SITE STAFF
Oct 16, 2006

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "You are asked to do an assignment for a company whose ethics you disapprove of. What do you do?".

This poll was originally submitted by Fiona Paterson

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 07:28
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
Is it just me who disapproves of - or is it objectively disapprovable of? Oct 16, 2006

Hello,
this is really a fantastic topic.
It has to do with ethics, ideals, pragmatism - and perspectives of future.
I will go straight away to the question making a comparison.
For instance: suppose there is a fanatic religious sect, sectarian and full of hatred. They speak their own native language and constitute quite a closed community. And they ask you to translate their propaganda material.
And suppose you accept, do the translation job, get paid and that's all.
What will be the result of your work?
Will it be to gather new adepts for that "closed circle"?
Or quite on the contrary, will it be easier for ordinary people to get to know how terrible they are, and so help condemn them straight away - ironically, thanks to your work?
It is something I had never really thought of.
Let's go on with this discussion! I just wanted to "kick the ball" and start the match.

[Edited at 2006-10-16 14:23]


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Walter Landesman  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 07:28
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
it depends Oct 16, 2006

What kind of ethics are we talking about? Is it commercial ethics, business practices? Or are we refering to the products they sale? Or maybe to some ideological factor?

What kind of assignment are we talking about? Is it related to the main goals and objectives of the company? Is it sales related? Maybe it is just answering the phone or translating a brochure on human resources and managment.

No, I can`t answer this question. Or better yet, I can only answer "it depends". The question is too vague and theoretical.

In dealing with ethical dilemmas in ethical committees, I was taught to study and analize the topic thoroughly on a case by case basic.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:28
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Well... Oct 16, 2006

if you consider rates as part of ethics, I think that part is easy to resolve with a price list.

I don't dare value-judge at first sight. I'm also aware that you can sign a perfectly kosher-looking contract or PO and find yourself working against your moral grain in the middle of the project when it's too late to back out.

Don't you think rising above the issues and keeping to the contract in such a case is as much a discipline as any other?

Or to put it another way, interpreters are hardly to blame when politicians or other clients lie. Courts will treat language service providers as ex-officio: they're presumed to do equally well for one side as for another.

As regards "objective disapproval", I think it would be easy to draw a line between what is legal and illegal.

What's not easy is the line between "legal" and "moral".


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:28
Flemish to English
+ ...
When does ethical becomes unethical. Oct 16, 2006

What is ethical?
What would you do if you get an offer from "Haliburton"? Decline/Accept.
What would you do if you get an offer from Lockheed Martin:
LM works on the shuttle program, but is also the largest military contractor making weapons such as the F-16, Hellfire missiles, AH-64 Apache and Trident ballistic missiles.
or from : Boeing : Aircraft, but Boeing is the second largest military contractor, making weapons such as the F-22, V-22 Osprey and the RAH-66 Comanche.
or from Raytheon: makes beautiful aircrafts, but also the largest military contractor making weapons such as the Patriot and Hawk missiles.
or General Dynamics :makes civilian aircraft, but is also the fifth largest military contractor making weapons such as nuclear submarines and M-1 tanks. It derives 72% (three year average) of its sales from military contracts.
Accept/decline those offers? Is work work or is it unethical to work for these corporations that make weapons that kill or is it unethical to translate a soft-pornographic magazine, that does not kill?
Who would not love to work for or have The Carlyle Group on his/her resumé? Former heads of state don't mind being on their board. The Carlyle Group is one of the world's biggest private equity investors, which by the way also invests heavily in waponery.
In the past, through an agency, I translated a marketing strategy for British Tobacco, whose products (cigarettes) kill. How ethical was I?
---
I am a translator and that is what I do: translating. I leave the moral judgements over content up to others. So, I clicked : accept.


[Edited at 2006-10-16 16:19]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 11:28
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It's evading the issue, but sometimes I give a 'soft excuse' Oct 16, 2006

I tell the client that I do not work in that field and that they would be better off looking for another translator. I have done this with astrology and other areas that I personally consider a waste of time, but otherwise harmless in a free world.

I have never actually been asked to take on a job that I considered seriously unethical. There are areas I simply would not touch on principle, and there are areas like "alternative" health advice that I regard as sheer swindle, but some people believe in them.

If I am not comfortable with a job for any reason, then I "don't work in that field". As long as it's legal it's not my problem! I regularly work for a cosmetics company... and I would never touch their products because the perfumes and chemicals give me migraine or might cause allergies. But they brighten up some people's lives and reinforce their self confidence!

I sometimes feel I should really start a branch of hypocrites anonymous

I would not work for a religious sect or political party I did not approve of, and I might tell them. This is too theoretical a topic, and not the right place to go into details.

There is nearly always the other excuse: Sorry, I'm busy this week with regular clients and don't have time!



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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 07:28
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
Good point, Walter Oct 16, 2006

Walter Landesman wrote:
In dealing with ethical dilemmas in ethical committees, I was taught to study and analize the topic thoroughly on a case by case basic.


This is fantastic.
Could you eventually tell us more about your work?
Are there any websites or links dealing with the topic - I mean, in a language relatively easy to access for us, simple ProZians? Very few of us are philosophers, after all!


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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 07:28
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
That's it! Oct 16, 2006

Parrot wrote:
Interpreters are hardly to blame when politicians or other clients lie. Courts will treat language service providers as ex-officio: they're presumed to do equally well for one side as for another.
As regards "objective disapproval", I think it would be easy to draw a line between what is legal and illegal.
What's not easy is the line between "legal" and "moral".


Thanks Parrot for your opinion.
The task of interpreters is one of the nicest examples of "hot stuff to deal with".
Take the example of an interpreter on a criminal court, in charge of translating the words of a serial killer...


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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 07:28
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
Your point is one of the hardest ones... Oct 16, 2006

Williamson wrote:
What is ethical?
What would you do if you get an offer from "Haliburton"? Decline/Accept.
What would you do if you get an offer from Lockheed Martin...
or from : Boeing : Boeing is the second largest military contractor...
or from Raytheon: makes beautiful aircrafts but also the largest military contractor...
Accept/decline those offers. Is work work or is it unethical to work for these corporations that make weapons that kill or is it unethical to translate a soft-pornographic magize, that does not kill?
In the past, through an agency, I translated a marketing strategy for British Tobacco, whose products (cigarettes) kill. How ethical was I?


Wow, terrible decision! Much easier to be "the interpreter of the assasin"!

OK, let's try the the 22nd chapter of Matthew: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s."

The answer remains in one's own hands, and the decision in one's own conscience...


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Nicholas Ferreira  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 06:28
Spanish to English
+ ...
More to work than just the $$$ (or €€€) Oct 16, 2006

This is a fascinating discussion topic on work and ethics, one I have been reflecting on extensively.

I would have to say that in my experience there is more to work than just the financial remuneration for services provided. If that is what life is about, there are much more lucrative activities I could be doing right now than translating and participating in this ProZ.com forum.

On an ideal level, work is my contribution to the human community, a contribution that enriches mankind in some way, and also leaves me a better person, happy to have made a difference in the world. So when there are so many positive ways I can make a difference and have my conscience at peace, why would I want to undertake some job that I don't approve of and lose precious sleep debating whether I should or should not take on this job. All this to go through just to earn a few extra pennies. It seems far too high a price to pay.

Someone much more qualified on the matter had something to say which I think fits nicely here: "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?"


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Nicholas Ferreira  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 06:28
Spanish to English
+ ...
More to ethics than not killing people Oct 16, 2006

Williamson wrote:

What is ethical?
Accept/decline those offers. Is work work or is it unethical to work for these corporations that make weapons that kill or is it unethical to translate a soft-pornographic magazine, that does not kill?
In the past, through an agency, I translated a marketing strategy for British Tobacco, whose products (cigarettes) kill. How ethical was I?


These are good questions Williamson brings up. I would have to say that there is more to be brought to the table of ethics than does it kill someone. Like the porn magazine might not physically kill someone, but the damage and addiction it causes to millions across America is a serious matter, and one I would not want to dirty my hands or conscience with.

As one recognized moral authority has said: "Pornography does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials."

Sounds like a pretty good reason not to aid and abet them in any way...


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myloum  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 11:28
English to French
+ ...
It depends Oct 16, 2006

There are some companies which products I absolutely refuse to buy (e.g. Nestlé, because I don't want to eat transgenic stuff), but I would translate their documents anyway if I was asked to (but using my highest rates).
On the other hand, I would NEVER work for a company that produces or sells furs, test protocols of cosmetic products on animals, nor anything allowing the suffering of human beings or animals.


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Nicholas Ferreira  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 06:28
Spanish to English
+ ...
We often make ethics tougher than it should be Oct 16, 2006

Fabio Descalzi Sgarbi wrote:

Walter Landesman wrote:
In dealing with ethical dilemmas in ethical committees, I was taught to study and analize the topic thoroughly on a case by case basic.


This is fantastic.
Could you eventually tell us more about your work?
Are there any websites or links dealing with the topic - I mean, in a language relatively easy to access for us, simple ProZians? Very few of us are philosophers, after all!


I think this is a good point you bring up, Fabio. Sometimes we make ethics tougher than it really is. There are principles that should guide our acts, and often times we are the ones that cause ourselves the difficulty when we try to bend our principles or coerce our conscience to accept things we know deep down we should not.

I found a few simple lines here that might help you out. I would like to paste a link, but I don't think that is allowed in the forums (you can send me an e-mail if you would like it):

Certain kinds of behaviour because they are opposed to the truth and the good of the person are "intrinsically evil", i.e., always and everywhere evil, without exception, e.g., homicide, genocide, abortion, slavery, prostitution. The choice by which they are made can never be good, even when made with a subjectively good intention and with a view to positive consequences. It is never licit to do evil that good may come of it. These actions radically contradict the dignity and good of the human person. Acts which in themselves are contrary to the development of the human person as intended by his Creator are evil.

Some say that an evil act may be justified by the end to which it is directed and argue that an act traditionally considered objectively wrong morally may, in fact, be objectively right morally in a concrete situation because of the good consequences of that act. Certain other people weigh the other goods at stake and argue that the evil of such an act may be outweighed by good elements which surround it, e.g., one's good intention, special circumstances and/or good consequences, so that to do it is not morally wrong.

However, it is never licit to do evil in order to achieve good.


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 05:28
English to Russian
+ ...
I'm in trouble:-) Oct 16, 2006

I disapprove of the entire corporate world... Time to change the trade:-o

Well, as some hunters in Texas say "Yeah, your are a person with big heart... You don't kill, you hire your killer". Only plastic shoes and bags, a vegetarian, would never drop in the car with leather seats, oh, and let my mother die but don't you dare to to administer animal-tested drugs... My kid can go to school in a polyesther jacket when it is below 30 centigrade outside. Right???

I am against senseless killings and hunting for fun, but from what I know about the animal kingdom they eat each other day in, day out, own cubs including, without gross aenesthesia. False sentiments are utterly unknown to them, they live by their own hard logic and truth. We are responsible for domesticated animals and I think I am capable of shooting my cats' killer, but we must get real. This is a carnivore world. Sure humans must exercise best practices and involve their hearts and common sense, yet no other creature consumes and destroys that much, thousand of times more than it needs for survival and comfort. The trash we all produce kills the planet too. I humbly suggest not to be so critical of the rest of the world.

I have read an article once about the international protectors of elephants in Tanzania. They were fighting against elephant population control. Oh, poor, wise, noble, innocent animals... The response was brilliant. "We invite all European housewives with bleeding hearts to take their children, come over and sleep in our huts for just one week not knowing whether one of the countless herds of elephants will pass by and step on them overnight. We do it for decades and our children and parents get stepped on".

However, child porno, racism and terrorism are on my no-no list, but I need F-16s at. al. to protect me from the next 9/11. All pacifists will yell louder than everybody else "where are your interceptors" as soon as they hear the bomber buzzing over their roof. LM and Boeing are my long-term end clients:-). Boeing will bring me to Spain in 2 weeks:-)


Sorry for the rough edges...
Irene



[Edited at 2006-10-16 17:50]


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krtko
China
Local time: 18:28
English to Croatian
+ ...
It dont matter Oct 16, 2006

It really dont matter what you do, but while you are at it, you might as well earn some money.

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