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For Occupy Berlin: A Song and a Prayer

This past week I visited Occupy Berlin, a movement inspired by Occupy Wall Street in New York (and also, of course, by the recent demonstrations in Spain and above all the Arab Spring). In Berlin, the Occupation is still in its early stages, but last Saturday I attended a large demonstration and a General Assembly (read my report here), and also was able to meet with some of the translators working to provide simultaneous interpretation of the proceedings to the large number of foreign-language visitors attending the Asambleas.

It is of course important for Occupy Wall Street to provide translations for both the foreign-language populations of New York and the rest of the world. But in Europe, given the porousness of national and linguistic borders, providing multilingual information is absolutely essential. And so attendees of Berlin’s General Assemblies (now held daily at 5 p.m. in front of the Reichstag) can enjoy simultaneous interpretation into English, Spanish, or French. For now the translation is all a bit off the cuff, with interpreters recruited from the crowd on any given day, but given the look of things, Occupy Berlin will soon be as well organized as its American cousin.

The Berliners are already ahead of Occupy Wall Street on two counts: Berlin’s Occupy has both an official song and a prayer. The prayer was delivered twice this weekend by a plywood mock-up of the pope who was marching along with a band of demonstrators dressed as billionaires: the Lord’s Prayer retooled as an ode to commerce. And the song is a catchy reggae tune put together by a handful of musicians at one of the first Assemblies in Berlin. Since I miss translating when traveling (OK, full disclosure: I’ve got a handful of poems by Silke Scheuermann in my backpack that I’m translating on the road), I couldn’t help taking my pen to these two texts. Voila: first the prayer, then the reggae song, which can be heard performed here.

Prayer

Our profit that art in the stock market
Hallowed be thy name
Our riches come
Our will be done in the marketplace as it is in the tax shelters.
Give us this day our daily accrued interest.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our speculators.
And lead us not into taxation, but deliver us from laws.
For ours is the prosperity and the power and the global glory.
Amen.

Song

Asamblea weltweit, asamblea worldwide, asamblea, asamblea,
asamblea
asamblea mundial;
I don’t need a boss, don’t need no representatives, I don’t need
an army, don’t need no speculators;
I see open eyes before me, I see open hearts, and we’re here to share our love,
to share our fury and our pain;
Asamblea in the schools and in the universities, in factories
and offices and in all the cities;
I care what you’re feeling, I care what you think, and it makes me
happy if you want to hear what I have to say;
Asamblea weltweit, asamblea worldwide, asamblea, asamblea,
asamblea
asamblea mundial

Admittedly I have a bone to pick with the line “don’t need no representatives,” since I believe that political representation is a crucial part of our democracy, but then again I don’t exactly feel represented by the line “no woman, no cry” either, and this was my first foray into reggae lyric translation. The main thing is the rhythm: The text has to be rhythmical, but not too rhythmical, so that the singer can draw out the final syllables of the phrases in good reggae style. The song sounded great on the Reichstag lawn.

 

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