Gregory Farmakis is one of the most active users of social media in Greece. He has his own blog and thousands of “followers” visit his Facebook and Twitter profiles daily. An engineer and a businessman, he manages the consulting company for research and management of financial and statistical data, Agilis, which produces specialized software.
Gregory Farmakis ran for the first time in the 6 May elections with the ballot of Democratic Alliance. He will not run in the elections on 17 June, but along with at least 249 other rational thinkers, he created "Open Society."
In an interview with GRReporter, he talked about it, about elections, populism, the future of New Democracy and the centre-right space, and about the power of social media.
Mr. Farmakis, tell us about the "Open Society" initiative.
"Open Society" is a citizens' initiative, which is not a political organization, nor does it intend to become a party, although it has a very clear political position. We did not want its foundation to be associated with the people who initiated it and therefore, we waited for the first 100 signatures in its favour before announcing it. In our opinion, it does not really matter who initiated it but who shares the ideas of the initiative.
We decided to introduce it on the Internet, precisely because we did not want it to be accepted as a way of making a personal image. Another 150 signatures were added to the initial 100. The initiative aims at intervening in public dialogue through activities that may be proposed by the participants, namely through writing texts, organizing discussions and anything else that can submit questions for discussion within the social dialogue or exert pressure on different decision making levels. I.e. it will not be a think tank but something like political activism to put it figuratively. Our first activity was the inaugural statement, outlining what ultimately Greece is in Europe.
A quick look at the list shows that the initiative involves people from many political spaces.
Yes, and this was one of our goals. We could say that it regards a particular political space that is a broad centrist space. There are liberals, social democrats and leftists among us. Our efforts are aimed at uniting all people regardless of their party affiliations, but who share the idea of Greece, which is based on the institutions of a constitutional state, open society, modern management, the open economy and welfare, on the state support of the weaker and on reducing inequality. The initiative is political in nature, but it is sufficiently broad to be assigned to a particular political space. In practice, it is the missing link in the Greek political spectrum. Our principals are free and competitive economy, reforms in this regard, institutions and rule of law, government intervention in the market only where it cannot regulate itself, a state providing its citizens with health services, education and security.
In the elections on 6 May, you were a candidate for deputy. What was your experience from the election process?
I think the most typical for the last elections was that many people like me, who had no party activity, decided to run in a period very negative for Greece. And this was one of the positive things.
As for the results, they were expected on the one hand and very disturbing on the other. First, it is because we see the continuously rising polarization. And no matter how we try to keep composure, to maintain the view that the solution is for all of us to agree to a minimum of common things and remove ideological differences for a while, we see that this centrist position is no longer a part of public discussion. Quite the contrary - we currently have two extremes, which are polarized.
The upcoming elections rather than the past ones bother me more as well as today's situation, which gets worse every day due to the increased violence. For the first time, we have an election period with so many cases of violence.
What is the role of populism in public life?
I think what I said about violence is directly related to populism. It is virtually a denial of rationality. Populism is not just demagoguery - it is something much more evil. It finds expression in creating a common enemy, which may be artificial, and putting it against the citizens; in deciding that the citizens are the people, i.e. a single mass, the will of which you interpret from your role as a political party. This process is very subversive because it cancels rationality, which is the foundation of democracy. When creating this enemy and giving expression to the "holy" anger of people, "oppressed" by their rightness and so on, you are creating a gap in logic. And it is filled by violence.