Sophia is likely the most popular American baby-girl name of 2012, as projected by expert Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard.
What is in a name? To the American parents who will name their baby girls Sophia, nothing. The name carries no meaning. To the Greeks?
Sophia means Wisdom.
Saint Sophia was sainted together with her three daughters : Pistis, Elpida and Agapi, which are the Greek words for : Faith, Hope and Love. All three names express human qualities implicit to Wisdom. The word Sophia is as old as Greece and has always carried the same meaning. Philosophy is the English version of the Greek word FILOSOFIA, which, in a literary translation, means friendship for Wisdom. Philosophers, something humanity was never short of, have contemplated long and hard about it and have sought Wisdom in every form of human expression, indeed written and oral. The word sophisticated may have expressed a degree of wisdom, long ago, but now it expresses a degree of distinction, not necessarily related to wisdom, which is the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships; the knowledge of what is true, what is right.
The expression: the Greeks have a word for it: projects the fact that the Ancient Greeks (no relation to present day Greeks) had thought and explored so many concepts and tenets of life and sciences that they created the appropriate words to refer - to express them. The Ancient Greeks had sought wisdom. They even had concluded that there is an Unknown God, despite the fact that they had worshipped twelve Gods and Goddesses, dedicating to him an altar with the words : to the Unknown God : which signified the progress of their Philosophical thinking … there must be more than what is known that must be sought and discovered. Yes, the Greeks of old had sought wisdom.
The Cathedral in the Capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople, now Istanbul, was the magnificent church of Saint Sophia which to this day is a distinct landmark of Istanbul.
The Byzantines revered Wisdom, which may explain why their Empire lasted one thousand one hundred and thirty eight years, one thousand and twenty six years longer than the thousand years REICH which Adolf Hitler had envisioned.
Alas, three hundred and seventy years of subjugation to the Turks and contemporary, materially oriented life styles, have adulterated Greek thinking to the point that one is at loss to find “Sofia” in any part of Greek life. Currently, wisdom has come to, also, mean “smarts”. The Greeks are given to a lifelong pursuit of happiness, as this is “modeled” by the media and to win the game one needs “smarts”. Absent is sofia, the wisdom of the good old times, hence the deterioration of the quality of life. Contemporary Greece has nothing to reminisce of Ancient Greece, distinguished for its “sofia”, except for the presence of ancient ruins and the preservation of the word sofia in the Greek language.
The American baby girl Sophia, according to the feature of a recent TIME magazine, is expected to live 81.3 years, earn USD 4.033.618 in the 40 years of her working life. Her parents will spend USD 150.000 on her in state college education at a public US college, 500.000 if she attends private college (before financial aid, loans and scholarships).
By comparison, the Greek baby girl Sophia can expect to live a little less, Mediterranean Diet not withstanding. Her University education is, supposedly, free and her earning potential less than that of the American baby girl.
Greek Sophia has one advantage. A University education that costs much less than its American equivalent; however of dubious value, considering that she will be lectured by Professors who are not necessarily assigned the task of imparting knowledge on the basis of their credentials. Greek Universities are not distinguished for the prevalence of meritocracy, but of politics, at all levels.
American Sophia will be educated in an environment that promotes self achievement and academic excellence. She will also have the benefit of career advice.
However dubious the quality of Greek Sophia’s University education, it is something that even the poor can afford. Even if Greek Sophia acquires her qualification in an American University, in Greece (there is one in Athens and one in Thessaloniki) the cost will be no more than about USD 65000.
Greek Sophia will live in an economically introvert society, not so will American Sophia.
American Sophia will retire on what she will have “bought” in the active years of her life. She will spend as much as she chooses on Health and Retirement insurance which will cover Health care and retirement benefits to the degree she pays for, these being in addition to what will be provided by her employment insurance, basis the deductions from her paycheck Greek Sophia will expect the Fund of her employment, or the state, to provide her with Free Health care and retirement benefits, deductions from her pay check paying for much of it. If she wants better Health and retirement benefits, in addition to what she will have from her Fund, or the state, she will have them from the Private Insurance which she will have bought paying from pre-tax earnings.
Truly, there is not much difference in the life quality and retirement expectations of both the American and the Greek Sophia. The difference in the life of the two Sofias will be one of culture.
The US and Greece have a distinctly different economic and social culture. In the US people rely on themselves. In Greece people expect a lot from the state. In the US there is “reason”, in Greece not much of it.
In an area close to Athens the river is badly polluted and so the crops watered from it are viewed with suspicion. The farmers of that area show up one day in the very center of Athens and give away their products, to thus prove that their crops are safe. Presently, with incomes drastically curtailed people will take anything that is free, so they really take all what the farmers give away, thinking that even if they are somewhat contaminated they do not kill you if you have them once.
What did the farmers prove, other than the fact that when people are broke they take anything, once. When interviewed people said we take them because they are free. The farmers had thought they would make their point. They instead got free publicity for the fact that their crops raise questions of health. Smart reasoning?
In an area close to the Port of Piraeus there is a formerly flourishing Ship Building and Repairs industrial zone, which is loosing out to the Romanian and Turkish competition. The Greek workshops are renowned for their quality but their pricing is nearly triple that of the competition. The owners/managers of the Greek establishments believe they can successfully compete by holding their cost at current levels and substantiate their higher prices with the expert quality and efficiency of their work. The far left wing of the Communist party in defiance of reason wants very substantial wage increases for the workers. It stages strikes every so often which only deprive work from the builders/repairers, as ships can not wait and move on to Romania and Turkey. The Communist dominated syndicate totally disregards the competition from these two countries. What its unbending attitude portends is a quick death to the business and mass unemployment for its members. Undeterred the Union pushes ahead. Politics above reason.
The above are but two examples of Greek culture.
American Sophia lives in a country where the world’s third richest man pays less income tax than his secretary. The tax codes favor the rich and only now President Obama wants to make the rich pay 30% income tax. In Greece the scale is much higher, but rich people, to a considerable extent, evade taxation altogether.
In the US those with no health insurance were helpless. President Obama has now provided for them but his Republican opponents want to abolish this, on the grounds that it burdens the tax payers, deprives funds for investment and moneys that should be spent in the market. In Greece, like in most of the EU, there is social welfare which assures that no one is left without health services. Republicans accuse the President for wanting to bring Socialism to the US. If taking care of the underprivileged, loving thy neighbor, is Socialism, then Jesus Christ too was a Socialist. Why then do they worship him?
The above are but two examples of American culture.
Cultural differences notwithstanding both American and Greek Sophia will have much in common in terms of mentality. The world is converging to a “global” theatre of events and the media now bring the “world” to peoples’ attention, so both girls will have common experiences and anxieties, the main one being about climate changes and their repercussions. Neither American nor Greek Sophia will live in a little world of their own and with English becoming the “global” language if the two Sophias ever meet they will have no difficulty in communicating, which is the start of understanding, of cooperation, of wisdom at work … for the planet’s sake?