Tuesday. 15/9/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Neighbourhood watch

The German love of rules is a subject of much parody abroad but in reality it’s a relationship that is far more nuanced than the popular stereotype. Yes, Germany is a country where the rules are many and adherence to them must often be to the letter (unless you’re in free-minded Berlin, which takes a more lackadaisical Mediterranean-style approach). But there’s a caveat: adherence to rules doesn’t always mean that policing them is up to the state.

Ensuring that rules are followed is more of a community-based, peer-pressure sort of thing: make too much noise after 22.00 or start drilling holes into your walls on a Sunday (yes, it’s against the rules) and you might get a knock on the door and a rude telling-off from one of your neighbours. On the plus side, you’re less likely to have the police show up at your door. Memories of the former East German Republic, where state police actively encouraged people to report on their neighbours, still ring true for many in Germany, breeding a healthy scepticism of state involvement when a community solution is more obvious.

Why mention this now? Because the new pandemic-related restrictions introduced in the UK yesterday limiting gatherings to six people or fewer came with a rather shocking encouragement from the UK’s minister of state for crime and policing: neighbours should feel “open” to calling a non-emergency hotline if they see people violating the new rules. That feels like a slippery slope. Yes, we need sensible rules to help combat this virus and they should be followed – but neighbours reporting on each other? Surely it’s better to do this the frank German way and keep the telling-off within the confines of the neighbourhood.

Politics / Japan

Prime mover

Yoshihide Suga, the 71-year-old son of a strawberry farmer and right-hand man of Japan’s outgoing prime minister Shinzo Abe, was yesterday elected as the new leader of the country’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. He is set to be confirmed as the country’s prime minister in a separate vote tomorrow and will then name a new cabinet. Considered to be the continuity candidate after serving as cabinet secretary during Abe’s record tenure as prime minister, Suga (pictured, on right, with Abe) is widely seen as more of a pragmatist than an ideologue. In a speech following the victory, he said that he would continue with Abe’s policies to tackle the pandemic, while promising administrative reforms for a more efficient government and a social-security system that “protects people while encouraging them to help each other”. The next big question is whether he will call a snap election next month to solidify his public mandate – a move that would allow him to emerge more firmly from Abe’s shadow.

Media / USA

Behind the front lines

It seems appropriate that the memoir of Clarissa Ward, CNN’s chief international correspondent, was released just ahead of the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Ward says that the incident shifted her perspective, putting her on a path to becoming a war correspondent; before that she had wanted to be an actress. Her book On All Fronts: The Education of a Journalist goes behind the scenes of some of her most impressive stints, from Syria and Afghanistan to the Paris attacks of November 2015.

“I wrote this book as a love letter to journalism, to tell people the stories behind the story,” Ward told Monocle 24’s The Stack. But she warns that the job of a journalist is becoming harder: “Journalists were never the target,” she says. “We were on the sidelines telling the story. Now we are considered fair game – either by terrorist groups, authoritarian regimes or, frankly, even when the US president calls us ‘fake news’.”

Retail / UK

After a fashion

Amazon might have cornered the online retail market in practically every sector but there is one area that still eludes it: luxury fashion. This week sees Amazon making an improbable push into the sector with the launch of the Amazon Fashion x London Fashion Week digital shopfront, where shoppers can pick up spring/summer 2021 collections from brands including Preen Line and De La Vali. Later this month comes the launch of a dedicated app showcasing luxury brands. But does Amazon have any real chance with the front-row flock? The e-commerce giant might have an unbeatable delivery network and inescapable online presence but its association with cut-price goods and mass production – not to mention crowding out the independent retailers on which fashion thrives – makes it unlikely to be embraced by the discerning community that invests in designer clothing. At the end of the day, who wants to buy a Tom Ford suit at the same place you buy a toilet brush?

Urbanism / Nairobi

Kick out the jams

Nairobi has been working hard to shake its reputation as Africa’s most congested city. In recent years the Kenyan capital has trialled car-free days, rolled out a rapid-transit bus system and upgraded its railway stations. By the end of this month it will have added 11 new commuter trains to this list of improvements. Currently en route from Spain, the diesel-powered vehicles will enhance the existing rail network’s capacity, connecting the city’s suburbs with its centre and is part of a plan to carry 132,000 passengers a day by 2022. Although these efforts are to be lauded, additional measures are needed: Nairobi should look to invest in at least some pedestrian and cycling infrastructure too, something that is sorely lacking in the city. For these new trains to entice people out of their cars and private minibuses, the walk or cycle to the station needs to be pleasant – perhaps Nairobi should consider importing a little Spanish pedestrian culture too?

M24 / The Big Interview

Michel Comte

For more than 40 years, the Swiss artist and photographer has worked for all the major fashion houses and publications including ‘Vogue’ and ‘Vanity Fair’. The subject of his forthcoming book is his grandfather, Alfred, a Swiss aviation pioneer. Michel sits down with Tyler Brûlé to reflect on the golden age of commercial air travel and on the extraordinary life and achievements of his grandfather.

Monocle Films / Global

The secret to throwing a dinner party

In our new “secret to” series, supper club host Gabriel Waterhouse shares his tips on organising a friendly feast in your home with great-quality food and (just as important) an entertaining atmosphere.

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