Wealth is not the same as prosperity

Sometimes television gives us the chance to get to know people with whom we would never normally cross paths, who are from a different generation or socioeconomic group, with different interests or political beliefs. Still, some of these «others» have important things to say to us. Only know-it-alls would ignore a man such as Minos Zobanakis, a guest last Monday night on Aris Skiadopoulos’s program on state broadcasting channel ET-1. An economist who was an important – though for most people, an invisible – figure in public life for half a century, Zobanakis understood (both on paper and in practice) what globalization meant long before the term came into vogue. A self-made man, educated at Harvard and with a career at the Bank of Greece as well as an international career in the private sector, he was what Skiadopoulos described as the «Alexander the Great of the economy.» The secret of his success, he explained, was simple: «ambition, modesty and sympathy.» He had intelligence, connections and knowledge, and enjoyed the trust of the USA, but did not profit from it. Not that he lived in poverty, of course, but as he said: «Wealth is one thing, prosperity is another.» What was most impressive about him was his clarity and directness. He used no difficult economic terms, not one foreign word (even though he has lived abroad for a long time). Nor did he digress, or try to be too clever or nostalgic. To ignore him would be our loss, not to evaluate his work, to like him or dislike him, but to understand, even just a little, something of our terrible and wonderful age – and to appreciate the virtue of humility.