Monday. 16/3/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Venetia Rainey

Keep your options open

How was your weekend? Chances are it was a weird one that was filled with the same conversation on loop, some cancelled social engagements and a little worst-case-scenario contingency planning. Don’t worry, we’re not here to continue the theme. At Monocle we’ve always prided ourselves on focusing on the opportunities, the rays of light, the things you can do that help – even if only in a small way. You’ll have had more than enough advice by now on how to help prevent the spread of the virus – but what about doing your bit to lessen the economic impact of the pandemic?

With tourism heavily impacted, some of the worst-affected companies will be the consumer-facing ones in hospitality and retail. Millions of ordinary people depend on these vital industries for jobs and many of them will be struggling to get by as shifts are cut and the usual supplementary flow of generous tips dries up. It doesn’t need to be like that. Restaurants and cafés already follow strict food-hygiene rules and, rest assured, they will be doing so even more at the moment (remember, too, that your delivery order will still be prepared and transported by humans). At the popular buffet in Singapore’s five-star Royal Plaza on Scotts hotel, for example, the management has introduced measures that include spacing all tables a metre apart, requiring diners to use hand sanitiser when they enter, and taking the temperature of all staff twice a day. Shops are taking similar steps: high-end beauty chain Space NK has instructed staff to stop giving makeovers and treatments as part of a “no touch” policy and is conducting rigorous deep-cleaning of its premises on a daily basis.

Of course, the normal rules should be followed about staying at home if you are sick or you come into regular contact with vulnerable people. But – with a little bit of extra hand washing and common sense – there’s no reason why perfectly healthy people can’t lend their custom to that hotel, bar or shop down the road that’s facing an extraordinarily tricky period ahead. Just don’t forget the hand san.

Democracy / Bangkok

Gathering steam

On Friday, weeks of dissatisfaction came to a rather modest head in Bangkok when hundreds of pro-democracy protesters took to the streets. Discontent has been building since the progressive opposition Future Forward party (FFP) was dissolved in February. This anger only grew last Wednesday with the announcement that the FFP’s charismatic leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (known as “TJ”), will be charged with breaching electoral law, for which he could face up to a decade in prison. On Friday, the international monitoring organisation Human Rights Watch labelled the charges an attack on democracy and called on Thai authorities to drop them. The protests have been compounded by an economic downturn but, as Friday’s mediocre turnout shows, a meaningful pro-democracy movement remains at the mercy of coronavirus. However, expect TJ to keep up the pressure – you can read our interview with the opposition leader in the April edition of Monocle magazine, on newsstands from Thursday.

Politics / Germany

More than meets the eye?

Protecting democracy isn’t just about putting out raging fires. It’s about stopping the arsonists and accelerants that make the fire burn in the first place. Such was the warning from Thomas Haldenwang (pictured), head of Germany’s domestic security service, which last week announced it was placing part of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party under surveillance. It’s a senstive move that might seem extreme to other democracies but is not unheard of in Germany, where neo-Nazi parties are banned.

Many AfD supporters insist that their party, despite its far-right views on immigration and Islam, is different. The surveillance measures should put that to the test, forcing elements of the party to either show their true colours or else moderate their views. Germany knows how easy it is for democracies to be destroyed from within. “That is the warning of history to us,” said Haldenwang. His words should be heeded beyond the country’s borders.

Aviation / Canada

Wetter bomb

North American forests have a new and improved firefighting friend in Viking Air’s CL-415EAF (pictured) aerial water-bomber, which made its debut flight last week. It’s an updated version of a classic, the Canadair CL-215, which was produced by Bombardier until it was sold, along with the rest of the aerospace company’s water-bomber business, to Viking Air in 2016. The hotly anticipated revamp by the British Columbia-based aircraft manufacturer comes with some major upgrades, including improved turbine engines. According to Viking Air it also boasts the shortest scooping distance (the range required to approach a body of water, skim water off the surface and climb back into action) and best water-drop performance of any plane on the market. The airplane will be delivered to its new owner – Bridger Aerospace of Bozeman, Montana – next month. Hopefully this will be just in time to be of use during the next wildfire season.

Art / Global

Click art

Art Basel Hong Kong might not actually be opening its doors later this week but that doesn’t mean that exhibitors won’t get to put their wares on display. The fair has launched a series of “online viewing rooms” to provide a platform for artworks that gallerists were planning to present at their booths. London’s David Zwirner gallery will, for example, be putting its exhibition On Painting on the site, featuring works from the likes of Sigmar Polke, Chris Ofili and Jeff Koons (“Gazing Ball (Botticelli Primavera)”, pictured). Art Basel is not the only institution that’s getting creative to cope with the crisis. In Turin, contemporary art museum Castello di Rivoli’s director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev says she has been working 18-hour days to make collections accessible online. Such initiatives highlight curators’ ability to adapt to testing times and experiment with new ways of helping consumers experience art. Their willingness to embrace the challenge certainly deserves applause.

M24 / The Pioneers

Francesco Sauro

We speak to speleologist Francesco Sauro about the physical and psychological demands of cave exploration. He tells us what it’s like to be the first person to set foot in a cave and how being a subterranean expert has enabled him to work with astronauts.

Monocle Films / Global

The future of Japanese craftsmanship

To celebrate our forthcoming book about Japan, we are presenting a new film series that dives into the intriguing ecosystem that has preserved Japanese traditional skills over centuries. Meet the people who are future-proofing the age-old know-how.

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