Tuesday. 4/8/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

At any right

We all get this feeling sometimes: that the means, even if illegal or improper, are justified when the cause is just – and unjustified when it isn’t. This has been apparent during the many protests held since the pandemic began. With that in mind here are some common-sense truths that should be agreeable to our readers.

  1. Protests and free speech are a right that should never be infringed.

  2. Protests in a pandemic carry risks to all of us and should be conducted in line with the prevailing health guidance.

  3. Violence is never justified. But nor should sporadic violence by a few detract from the proper cause of the many.

  4. Protests have an important place in a democracy but elections must count for something too.

Are we agreed? Great. Now consider these recent examples. Protests in Berlin this weekend (pictured), and in US cities in past months, against the economic impact of coronavirus restrictions, often without masks and including sporadic violence by right-wing agitators. Ongoing Black Lives Matter protests in US cities and elsewhere, often without masks and including sporadic violence by left-wing agitators. Protests in Tel Aviv calling for Benjamin Netanyahu to step down over his pandemic response and corruption allegations, despite three elections held in the past year.

Yes, each case is different, I hear you say. But the question still stands: in which of these cases (and the countless others I didn’t mention from Hong Kong to Zimbabwe to Brazil) did you focus on the “right” to protest and where did you back police responses to quell them? Where did you criticise or downplay the health impact? I suspect your answers differ depending on location and beliefs. But should they? Probably not as much as you think.

Defence / Austria

Border buzz

Austria is launching a pilot project this month using drones to monitor its borders with Slovenia and Hungary. In an interview with news agency APA, interior minister Karl Nehammer said that the project aims to bring Austria’s border-control efforts into the 21st century. Drones are said to be more efficient and cost-effective than helicopters in providing aerial surveillance and photographs, which should aid investigations into illegal migration and human trafficking. Anja Dahlmann of the German Institute of International Security Affairs, says that unmanned drones can be risky if used in contested areas but should be a “useful addition to border patrols” in Austria and elsewhere on the EU’s external borders. Nehammer says that the trial is backed by the European Commission and has been welcomed by Hungary and Slovenia; the latter is even offering to extend the project to its Croatian border. The regional co-ordination is a positive sign in an area where the EU has struggled to agree a common approach.

Travel / Singapore

Tag regime

Singapore announced yesterday that, from 10 August, it will require people to wear electronic trackers for two weeks upon entry to the city-state, ensuring that new arrivals remain at home. Non-compliance will result in fines up to S$10,000 (€6,200) and up to six months in jail. Although Singapore isn’t the first nation to bring in a system of electronic tags – Hong Kong introduced its own trackers in March – the move is unlikely to encourage foreign business travellers to visit.

Seán Maffett, aviation analyst for Airsound, says that the effort was probably directed at assuaging domestic economic concerns instead. “It seems to me that business [in Singapore] will probably approach this quite positively,” he says. “These rules were already in place and the fact that they are being more clearly enforced should make businesses feel safer.” But for the rest of us? The ticket to Changi might stay on hold for now.

Transport / Mumbai

Like for bike

A huge uptick in cyclist numbers in recent months has prompted many cities across the globe to roll out new biking infrastructure and pop-up lanes. But Mumbai is going further than most: by the end of the month all 24 of its civic wards will have dedicated bicycle councillors. According to the city’s bicycle mayor Firoza Suresh – a cycle activist appointed to the post by municipal and metropolitan commissioners in 2019 – their role is to make Mumbai one of the world’s bike capitals. “The councillors will be expected to interact with stakeholders,” says Suresh. “And to look at setting up docks, cycling paths [and] zones to undertake training.” If the councillors manage to implement such measures, they could help to make roads in India’s most populous city less hostile for everyone: more cyclists and bike infrastructure could ease traffic and congestion, and reduce pollution. Perhaps it could even encourage the installation of more pedestrian-friendly interventions, such as footpaths and crossings too. Roll on, we say.

Arts / London & New York

Frame of reference

Amid ongoing government restrictions and a drop in tourist numbers, galleries and museums are getting creative when it comes to connecting with audiences that are often still wary of spending too much time inside. In New York some 30 institutions are participating in a new effort to highlight the best open-air exhibitions the city has to offer. In London, meanwhile, the Photographer’s Gallery has set up one of its own in King’s Cross. Games We Play (pictured) is a showcase of images exploring the UK’s summertime rituals and traditions, which are mounted on benches. It features the work of Julie Cockburn, Weronika Gesicka and Luke Stephenson, among others. “We thought that a particularly summery and upbeat theme would be appropriate for quite a gloomy time,” says Brett Rogers, the gallery’s director. “We want to entice people out to explore photography in the public realm but also to draw them to our permanent space.” A tricky balance, no doubt. But a laudable goal.

M24 / The Menu

What’s in chefs’ fridges?

Skye McAlpine’s tips for perfect (and less stressful) dinner parties, a look at Denmark’s growing wine business, plus a peek into the fridges of some of the world’s most famous chefs.

Monocle Films / Japan

Japanese food trucks

These design-forward restaurants on wheels are more than just lunch-hour catering for Tokyo’s hardworking crowds. We visit the talented chefs, as well as a technology start-up kicking the “kitchen car” scene into gear.

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