Thursday. 27/8/2020

The Monocle Minute

Image: REUTERS

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

Mother courage

On Tuesday, Melania Trump spoke at the Republican convention and, to the surprise of some, dipped a careful toe into the issue of race relations. The First Lady attempted to address the anger, and the demands for police reform, that have been unleashed in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by officers in Minnesota in May. “I urge people to come together in a civil manner so we can work and live up to our standard American ideals,” she said. Was it a call for real change? Or a suggestion that people should stop getting so upset?

The same day, another woman stood in front of the microphones to make a speech. It was one that no aide had finessed, yet it was one that – in its simplicity, devastating calm and searing call for forgiveness – shook those who heard it.

Julia Jackson is the mother of Jacob Blake, who was shot in the back on Sunday by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The 29-year-old black man lies in hospital, his spinal cord shattered. But there stood Ms Jackson (pictured), ready to talk to the press, and the words just flowed. “I have beautiful brown skin but take a look at your hand and whatever shade it is, it is beautiful as well,” she began. “God did not make one type of tree or flower or fish or horse or grass or rock. How dare you ask him to make one kind of human who looks just like you.” There was pain, surely some anger, but then this: “To all of the police officers, I am praying for you and your families.”

It’s extraordinary how many mothers faced with such dreadful moments are so often touched by eloquence that no speechwriter could aspire to – and also by an unnerving refusal to be cowed by the urge for revenge.

During testimonies given in recent days at the trial in Christchurch, New Zealand, of Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people in the infamous mosque shooting, we heard from Janna Ezat, whose son was murdered. “I have decided to forgive you, Mr Tarrant,” she told him. “Because I don’t have hate, I don’t have revenge.” Another mother whose grief would not fester. But.

Well, the “but” is that we have had enough of mothers forced to be heroes and we can only hope that Ms Jackson’s words add to the demands for a fundamental shift in US policing that will in turn put an end to these stories, these moments in the glare.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Libya

Flash point

Civilians in Libya have continued taking to the streets in protest this week as anger mounts. They are having to deal not only with the pandemic but an intensifying conflict that, along with blockades of the country’s oil ports, is crippling the economy. The situation is so severe that a recent World Bank report warned that Libya could be facing its worst crisis in almost a decade. The protests, which arrive against the backdrop of another failed ceasefire, have targeted both the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli and Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army, which controls the east, where its forces have violently dispersed demonstrators in Sirte. The unrest is “an expression of the mounting frustration of ordinary Libyans, who have been pitched into an economic, humanitarian and political crisis,” Mary Fitzgerald, a journalist and Libya researcher told Monocle 24’s The Globalist. In short, Libyans are fed up – no matter which rival faction they support.

Image: Getty Images

Transport / Japan

Full bream ahead

Japan’s strong network of fast, efficient public transportation is proving useful even when there aren’t millions of passengers to serve. Yesterday, East Japan Railway (JR East) launched a three-day experiment to deliver seafood from Japan’s northern Tohoku region to Tokyo. Twenty neatly loaded boxes of freshly caught madai (red sea bream) and oysters harvested at a port in Ishinomaki city in the morning left the Sendai station on Yamabiko 136 Shinkansen.

Two hours later they were on the plates of sushi and izakaya restaurants in Tokyo. With occupancy on JR East’s Tohoku Shinkansen down 30 per cent year on year due to travel restrictions, the company is eyeing the seafood market as a new source of business. Further north, Hokkaido Railway Company is teaming up with logistics giant Sagawa. It seems that a whiff of innovative ideas is in the air.

Image: Getty Images

Retail / UK

Higher returns

It has been a well-kept retail-industry secret that companies can reduce their return rates on online purchases – a crucial profit metric – by extending the time limits for returns. Without the urgency of a restricted window of time, consumers tend to forget to send things back at all. But new data from the UK’s Royal Mail suggests that consumers are wising up: although online purchases have soared since the beginning of the pandemic, so have returns of goods. Royal Mail reports a 25 per cent increase in its tracked returns compared with the same period last year, pointing to “the rise of the home fitting room” and the extended time limits offered by retailers in lockdown. Even though more than a third of people who were surveyed said that receiving a parcel was the highlight of their day, the rise in returns might be a positive sign that consumers are becoming more thoughtful. Though even better, in our view, would be a return to browsing in bricks-and-mortar shops.

Image: Alamy

Culture / Brazil

No gig deal

Musician Marcos Valle has been releasing his distinct brand of melodic Brazilian tunes for more than 50 years. His latest album Marcos Valle JID 003, released last week, was recorded in Los Angeles, marking a return to the site of his 1960s album Samba ’68. Now 76 years old, Valle (pictured) remains active and, although his smooth and suave tones remain present in his music, he’s also been enjoying some synthy experimentation in recent years. The highlight from his latest album is a lush bossa nova track recorded with his wife Patricia Alvi titled “Viajando Por Aí” (“Travelling Around”); a fitting – if wistful – topic for our times. It’s clear that Valle, currently in Rio, misses touring and sharing his music internationally. “Even in the latter years of my career, I’ve been performing around the world more and more,” he tells The Monocle Minute. “I see I have a new younger audience too, and that brings me a lot of happiness.”

Image: Vishnu Jayarajan, The Garage, Sheffield S1 Art Gallery Residency

M24 / Monocle on Design

Biennale special – part 2

In the second of a two-part special, we explore the brilliance of biennales. We imagine what the inaugural Monocle Architectural Biennale could look like with the help of London’s Resolve Collective and Chat architects of Bangkok. Plus: we hear the second half of an interview with Hashim Sarkis, curator of the 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Film / Kenya

Nairobi: building better cities

Kenya’s Karura Forest offers not only respite from the bustling capital but also a sense of pride for its citizens.

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