Tuesday. 24/11/2020

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Pace of change

Race in my native Brazil is a complex thing: we grew up with the idea that our nation was a racial democracy, that we did not exhibit prejudice against someone because of the colour of their skin. But the case of João Alberto Silveira Freitas, a black man who died after he was allegedly attacked by security guards at a Brazilian branch of Carrefour last week, prompting protests across Brazil, highlights that prejudice still exists.

Many like to point out that Brazil never officially sanctioned racism: when slavery was abolished – and we were the last country in the Americas to do it – it wasn’t replaced by discriminatory laws, as it was in the US, where lawful segregation lasted well into the last century. This might be true but the only real difference is that we didn’t need such discriminatory legislation for these attitudes to become entrenched. Even now, the darker your skin, the more likely you are to live in a favela, to be paid less than a white person for the same job and to be shot by the police (or indeed to die while on duty if you are a police officer).

For many decades the subject of race was taboo but in recent years this has been changing: we are discussing it more – and more openly. Even the way we see ourselves is shifting: more people now identify themselves as black or pardo, our term for mixed race. In municipal elections this year, 42,000 candidates declared themselves as belonging to a different race than they had previously: remarkably, 36 per cent of them moved from white to pardo. The number of elected mayors who are black or pardo also increased (slightly) compared with the previous election.

I too have reflected more about my race. I was adopted by a white family and usually people described me as moreno, another term for mixed race. I remember as a child how rare it was to see people with my skin colour in a position of power or even to see it considered beautiful. There are slow advances in our society in this regard. But the death of Freitas shows that much more needs to be done.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Hong Kong

Under fire

Carrie Lam is due to make her fourth policy address to lawmakers tomorrow as chief executive of a downtrodden Hong Kong. Lam enters the Legislative Council chamber following the mass resignation of the political opposition, the guilty pleas of multiple young pro-democracy activists, the imposition of US sanctions and a resurgence of coronavirus cases. With unemployment at a 16-year high, attention will be on the level of economic assistance that Lam (pictured) has secured from Beijing. This will be particularly noted because in October she postponed her annual speech claiming that she needed to consult the central government first. China’s willingness to support Hong Kong’s economic recovery will be closely scrutinised, both for clues about the city’s financial future and about Lam’s tenure as chief executive beyond the end of her tumultuous first term in 2022.

Transport / Denmark & Germany

Tunnel vision

Construction will get underway this winter on the world’s longest immersed tunnel, which will link Denmark and Germany, after a Leipzig court this month dismissed appeals from local groups and environmentalists. The 18km-long tunnel will run between the German island of Fehmarn and Danish island Lolland, descending up to 40 metres beneath the Baltic Sea.

A journey that currently takes 45 minutes by ferry will be cut to just seven minutes by train and 10 minutes by car. Perhaps more importantly, it will allow for a direct rail link between Hamburg and Copenhagen, slashing the train journey by two hours and opening up the possibility for direct lines between northern Scandinavia and mainland Europe. It’s a smart investment by the Danes, who are funding the €7bn project, not simply because it improves important trade routes. To stem the looming climate crisis, Europe needs more viable alternatives to air travel and projects of this kind make that a reality.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / USA

Tips for the top

Joe Biden’s first major cabinet picks, which the president-elect will formally announce today, suggest that traditional, unflashy diplomacy could soon be back in vogue. Rather than big-name political appointments, senior posts will reportedly go to Obama administration officials: Jake Sullivan is expected to be named national security advisor, while Antony Blinken is set to become secretary of state. Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state, has been “very close to the centres of power in US politics for a long time,” Brian Klaas, associate professor at University College London, told Monocle 24’s The Globalist. “He’s also somebody who will reassure allies because, like Biden, he’s very clearly a multilateralist.” The UN ambassadorship, meanwhile, will go to longtime diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield (pictured), who spearheaded Obama’s policy on sub-Saharan Africa and has held multiple diplomatic posts on the continent. She recently co-chaired an advisory committee for the Council on Foreign Relations titled Revitalising the State Department and American Diplomacy. That is sure to come in handy.

Image: Shutterstock

Energy / Japan

Current affair

The 6,852 islands that comprise the Japanese archipelago are home to thousands of diesel-guzzling ferries. In a bid to make this waterborne network greener, Osaka’s Kansai Electric Power Company and Tokyo-based transport consortium E5 Lab are collaborating to produce a new electric boat. Large-capacity storage batteries will be developed for the vessels as part of the Kansai Water Urban Mobility project. The batteries will be charged by onshore devices in a process that will also help to manage energy loadings at power stations. If successful, it’s hoped that both energy companies and transit authorities will invest in the construction of the project’s vessels – the former looking to regulate electrical output and the latter seeking cleaner, more affordable transit options. It’s a model that may ultimately be rolled out across the globe; soon Osaka’s rivers and Croatia’s Dalmatian coast could be abuzz with electric boats.

M24 / The Stack

‘Liberties’, ‘Anorak’, ‘The Age of Static’

We speak to Bill Reichblum, publisher of new quarterly ‘Liberties’, Cathy Olmedillas from children’s title ‘Anorak’ and TV critic Phil Harrison about his new book, ‘The Age of Static’.

Monocle Films / Global

Copenhagen: healthy city growth

The concept of kolonihave, a blissful combination of an allotment and a summer house, has shaped Danish cities since the late 17th century. Today avid growers convene in these colonies to find a peaceful place to commune with nature – and a community of diverse characters.

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