Tuesday. 7/1/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

New age of politics

Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin became the world’s youngest-serving state leader last month when she was sworn in at age 34 – but she hasn’t kept the title for long. Today the mantle will be passed to Austria’s Sebastian Kurz. And, despite being just 33 years old, this isn’t Kurz’s first stint as chancellor: he’s been re-elected after the collapse of his last government in May.

As in Finland, it’s not only Austria’s leader who has youth on his side. The whole cabinet in Vienna is getting a generational makeover (not to mention the government filling half of all positions with women). The country’s new justice minister is a 35-year-old former Bosnian refugee, the integration minister is also 35 and the new finance minister is 38. Much of the focus of these new governments has been on gender (in the case of Finland) or party coalitions (in the case of Austria, where Kurz’s conservatives engineered a swing from a partnership with the far right to an accord with the Greens). But age shouldn’t be ignored either.

As a thirtysomething myself – one who, like many of my generation, occasionally wonders whether my elders have spent my pension and soured the planet – I suppose I should be pleased that I’m now well represented in government. But it also leaves me with an odd feeling: if I’m not leading a country in my thirties, what have I done with my life? More seriously, I wonder whether I’d really be ready to have that level of responsibility thrust upon me now. Is anyone ready at my age? Sure, our politics need refreshing but is a youthful leader really going to deliver change in a sensible way? Time will tell whether the young are really capable of responsible government. Finland and Austria are the testing grounds. And there might be one person watching this experiment more keenly than most: Pete Buttigieg. At 37, the US presidential hopeful is practically a veteran.

Law / Hong Kong

Hidden agendas

Hong Kong is preparing for a legal showdown over its government’s ban on protesters wearing face masks. The city’s Court of Appeal is set to reassess the emergency law this week after it was deemed unconstitutional in November. Implementation of the ban proved largely ineffectual (many protesters deliberately flouted it) but the court’s verdict will send an important signal to a nervy international business community about the robustness of the city’s independent legal system. Beijing has questioned the authority of the Hong Kong judiciary by claiming to be the sole arbiter of the city’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law. But rule of law is ultimately what distinguishes Hong Kong from the mainland; any perceived erosion of this principle – or direct intervention by Beijing – could result in more companies heading for the exit.

Business / Lebanon

After the great escape

Tomorrow, Carlos Ghosn will give his first press conference since he skipped bail in Japan just over a week ago to avoid a trial on charges of financial misconduct. The disgraced former Nissan chairman fled by private jet to his family home in Lebanon, where he grew up. Remorse is unlikely: Ghosn has already said that he was escaping “political persecution”. But the world will be watching for clues about what happens next. Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Japan and although Interpol has put out a “red notice” seeking his detention, it is not an arrest warrant and can be ignored. One possibility is that Ghosn will open himself up to a trial in Lebanon, where his connections and significant personal wealth would seem to offer him favourable treatment. But with protests over corruption still ongoing across the country and Lebanese lawyers seeking to challenge him over previous visits to Israel (which are illegal for the country’s citizens), he could be in for a bumpier ride than he bargained for.

Transport / Kentucky

Hailing the bus

Commuters in Louisville, Kentucky, enjoyed an easier trip to work yesterday thanks to the launch of the city’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) line. The $35m (€31m) transport scheme is operated by Louisville’s Transit Authority of River City (TARC) and gives buses priority through traffic lights as well as access to special lanes. Several other US cities, including Los Angeles and Minneapolis, are also planning to expand their BRT networks and it’s easy to see why: BRT is significantly cheaper than light rail. It’s also future-proofed: buses can easily be replaced by newer transport options, such as trackless trams, as technology develops. As Louisville presses forward with exploring additional and alternative modes of transport – “I do think they are our future,” says TARC executive director Ferdinand Risco Jr – perhaps this small US city could be a fruitful testing ground for emerging transit options.

Cinema / Global

Unique take

First World War epic 1917 will be a firm favourite in the run-up to this year’s Academy Awards after winning two Golden Globes this week: one for best drama and another for its director, Sam Mendes. The acclaim is vindication for the film-maker – whose previous credits include American Beauty (1999) and Skyfall (2012) – and his decision to shoot the action in what appears to be a single take. “The reason for the one shot and two hours of real time is to really live through the experience with the men,” he told The Monocle Minute ahead of the film’s release this week. Previous attempts at the one-shot format have enjoyed mixed success: Alfred Hitchcock dismissed his own 1948 effort Rope as a failed experiment. But Mendes is convinced that the technique adds to the weight of the story. “You know that you’re never going to see further than they see,” he says. “You’re terrified of what’s around the next corner and that feeling of starting to realise that you don’t have any way out. That’s a big part of how we conceived the film both in terms of using one shot and the action.”

M24 / Monocle on Culture

2020 lookahead

Scott Bryan, Francesca Gavin and Karen Krizanovich join Robert Bound to give their two cents on the TV, films and art exhibitions to see this season.

Monocle Films / Georgia

Tsinandali tunes

The first edition of a Georgian festival that’s bringing together musicians from the Caucasus to discuss their shared future.

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