Saturday, February 14, 2009

Advice of the Day- Turkey's jewish business tycoon

ISHAK ALATON, a prominent member of Turkey’s tiny Jewish community, has a secret to living more intensely: He built his house next to a cemetery.

You remember every day that you’re going to end up there,” he said.

Mr. Alaton is 81 and one of Turkey’s leading businessmen. He started with heating systems in the 1950s and expanded into construction, gyms and resorts. He has built roads in Kazakhstan, airports in Uzbekistan and a hospital in Moscow....

He also got some advice he never forgot from the father of a girlfriend at the time.

“I know you will be successful,” he recalled the man saying. “But don’t let your money muzzle you or stop you from expressing your thoughts.”...

As for worries that the current government is going to bring hard-line Islamic rule to Turkey, Mr. Alaton does not share them.

“We are too open a society for that,” he said. “They are using this to create a new scarecrow. Our history has been full of scarecrows.”

Turkey has been a democracy for years, and, unlike in Russia, which tried to erect the structures of democracy overnight after the Soviet Union’s collapse, cramming democracy down people’s throats in one painful gulp, the adjustment in Turkey has been much more gradual.

“We’ve been able to digest our democratic values,” he said. “You should be very hopeful.”

-A Businessman’s Enterprise: Cajoling Democracy Into Full Flower

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