Tuesday. 10/12/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / James Chambers

The past is a foreign country

Some changes tend to creep up without us really noticing: a close friend gaining weight or children growing up. Living in Hong Kong feels a bit like that right now. Dramatic events seem to happen every day. We acknowledge it, quickly adapt and then accept it as the way it’s always been. Sunday’s march in Hong Kong felt very similar to the first big march on 9 June, when hundreds of thousands of people, from all walks of life, took to the streets. But pause for a moment to consider what’s changed since then – and the contrasts are quite stark.

Back in June the protests were about an extradition bill, while chief executive Carrie Lam governed Hong Kong with a high level of autonomy from Beijing. Today formerly well-behaved teenagers are making firebombs and there’s little or no trust between the once well-regarded police and the people they serve. “Free HK” graffiti now decorates the roads, while boarded-up shops and branches of mainland Chinese banks and businesses line the protest route. Hong Kong has changed dramatically; the six-month anniversary of that first protest should provide a moment of reflection for all of us who call it home.

Politics / Finland

Young shoulders

“This is really good for brand Finland,” our Helsinki correspondent Petri Burtsov told Monocle 24’s The Briefing of the news that Sanna Marin will soon take over as leader of the Social Democrats. In doing so she will become the world’s youngest prime minister at the age of 34 (at least until Austria’s 33-year-old Sebastian Kurz can pull a new coalition government together). Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that the first country in Europe to give women the right to vote has elected one of the world’s most interesting new female leaders – not to mention that the other four coalition parties in government are also led by women. Marin hails from a working-class background and was raised by a same-sex couple – and she has been outspoken about how this impacted her childhood. Finland’s Social Democratic-led government and its policies aren’t expected to change too much under her leadership but the example Marin sets is sure to have ramifications beyond Finland’s borders.

Society / Global

Information is power

The United Nations Development Programme has released its annual Human Development Report, ranking countries on measures such as life expectancy and education. The good news: since the first index was published in 1990 there’s been a significant increase in human development across the world (although the growth has slowed from 2010 onwards). The bad: this year the report focuses on inequality and finds that a failure to address the growing power divide is behind the rise in protests worldwide, over everything from the cost of a train ticket to demands for political freedoms.

There are no real surprises when you look at the highest-ranked countries on this year’s list: Norway remains at number one followed by Switzerland and Ireland, while Germany heads up the major economies, in fourth place. These countries manage to stay on top by continuing to develop opportunities through increasing access to broadband, for example, or boosting the number of adults in tertiary education. Access to information, it turns out, is a good way to confront inequality too.

Urbanism / Sydney

Work-life balance

Sydney could soon be home to many of Australia’s tallest buildings after its state and city governments agreed to allow structures to reach a maximum height of 330 metres (the city’s tallest habitable building currently stands at 244 metres). The catch? Residential use in new skyscrapers will be capped at 50 per cent to ensure that roughly three million sq m of office space will be created in the urban core. Critics of the deal say that this caveat risks turning central Sydney into a ghost town at night. And they might be right. The example of Melbourne, which prioritises residential development as a means of injecting vitality into its centre, has shown how new inhabitants bring life and business to city restaurants, bars and shops. With Sydney’s updated rules we can only hope that the new office space will be a springboard – rather than a death knell – for the city’s downtown vibrancy.

Culture / USA

Out with the old?

Yesterday’s Golden Globes nominations saw Hollywood heavyweights Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese receive five nominations each. Both are hot contenders for the coveted best director category with, respectively, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and The Irishman. Tarantino’s ode to Hollywood of old appealed to dewy-eyed critics and Scorsese’s crime epic has been hailed as his best work since Goodfellas. However, it was Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story that led the pack with six nods. Baumbach isn’t as much of a household name and his trademark witty, emotionally intelligent comedy-drama is a far cry from the shoot-’em-up blockbusters of old-school America. But perhaps it’s time for Tarantino and Scorsese to hand over to a new generation. Come the awards in January, we’ll find out whether larger-than-life cinema is alive and kicking – or just a relic from a long, long time ago.

M24 / The Monocle Weekly

Yann Tiersen, Humphrey Ocean and Art Basel in Miami Beach

Musician and composer Yann Tiersen talks about collaboration, misinterpretation and going analogue as he releases his new album, ‘Portrait’. Plus: Humphrey Ocean, one of the UK’s great painters, discusses his 50-year career, and our culture editor, Chiara Rimella, reports from Art Basel in Miami Beach.

Monocle Films / Italy

When in Rome

If you’re in the diplomatic game you could do worse than a posting in Rome, where you’ll probably be put up in a palazzo fit for a pope. Monocle pays a visit to the ambassadors of Brazil and France.

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