Interview with Areti, Free Thinking Zone
Can you tell us about Free Thinking Zone and what are its main objectives?
Free Thinking Zone is a statement bookshop for contemporary art and thinking and at the same time an activist bookshop for liberty, social consensus and human rights. It started 2 years ago when Greece when the need for collaboration and a mutual understanding in the society was a main issue. And it still is. The level of tolerance on each others ideas and thoughts is very low. Free Thinking Zone aims at filling this social gap and this is exactly why it is located in a symbolic crossroad, the crossroad between Kolonaki square, where the wealthy people are hanging around and Exarcheia square where the most rebel and most intellectual part of the city leaves. Our aim is also to introduce new civilised rules in public dialogue, to promote fight against racism, discrimination, fear and violence, to promote the best, the most creative, the hard working and positive part of the town, through books! We also wish to enhance activism and personal responsibility on public life. We are now so self-absorbed that we take little interest in the world beyond our own lives. Until now we have organised a variety of debates on controversial and ‘hot topics” of the society. We are trying to build a community of different people who wish Greece to step ahead. This is why the agenda of Free Thinking Zone events is set mainly from our community members, our customers who at the same time are voluntarily organising activities based on each one’s specialisation.
What are the main challenges you have faced in the course of your work?
The most difficult challenge that we are still trying to overcome is to convince all those people to sit at the same side of the table and discuss their differences. We don’t want to make them change their point of view. We just want them to accept the fact that no matter how disgusting I find your opinion; you need to have the right to phrase it without fear. We are still far from that and this is why we are not always successful.
The second fight is to educate our public about the character of a statement/activist bookshop. There is no such concept in Greece and therefore it is hard for people to understand why we speak openly on issues related to our agenda. There are still some opponents who refuse this right to us who launch threats and insults etc.
What mistakes have you made that you believe that others could learn from?
Our biggest mistake is that we should have asked for more from our volunteers at the beginning in order to build the community concept faster.
What other projects, groups, organisations or networks do you see as an essential dependency or influencer on what you do?
There are many: NGOs focused on transparency, liberty, human rights, alternative living, environment, universities, projects like yours, Rethink Athens, Basic Income Movement and political think tanks among others.
What do you think will be the greatest challenge for the human race over the next 100 years?
A common humanity. How do we raise human consciousness so that we are one? As our global environmental status and religious differences magnify, we need to find a way to shift human consciousness towards the intention of a less aggressive and more cooperative world.
Where would like to see Free Thinking Zone in the future?
I would like Free Thinking Zone to become a city “monastery”, a cooperative venue which enhances social creativity, personal initiatives and activism right at the heart of a civil society. A breakthrough, “a pain in the back” of governments and fans of systemic old politics. A multicultural, multi-religious oasis.