Thursday 21 January 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 21/1/2021

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

Biden: his time

It’s day one of Joe Biden’s administration and, now that the confetti has settled, it’s time for his team to get on with governing. The 78-year-old Democrat’s signature mix of decency and dodder belie a shrewd political operator who is keenly aware that his success as president could be judged on his first few months in office. Priorities for these symbolic first 100 days include plenty of sense but little in the way of surprise: supplying 100 million coronavirus vaccinations, nudging through a $1.9trn (€1.6trn) stimulus package and rolling back many of his predecessor’s policies by executive order.

Here are a few additional thoughts for the presidential to-do list, all taken from the out-today, hit-play-themed February issue of Monocle.

1. Launch a digital decency manifesto It’s time to talk openly about a better online social contract. The ubiquity of technology and how we use it is seriously affecting our health, wellbeing, stress and more broadly the quality of our conversations. Isn’t it time to unfriend a few technology companies, President Biden? Who elected messrs Zuckerberg and Dorsey to draw the lines on freedom of speech?

2. Follow the leader Our sit-down interview with Greece’s prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the Maximos Mansion showed how a firm hand on the rudder can steer a listing nation back to calmer waters. If a relatively small nation can create a wave of positivity, persuade talented émigrés to return and be a broker for peace in the region, then the US certainly could too.

3. Plan for the worst The scale and wake of the coronavirus pandemic should illustrate the fact that we need to invest in preparedness. For pangolin-borne respiratory viruses, yes, but also for water shortages, freak weather patterns and food security. We report on Finland’s national defence force, which runs courses for leaders in planning for the best but preparing for the worst.

Biden has now achieved his lifelong ambition of becoming US president. The next 100 days will show the world whether it was worth the wait – see yesterday’s edition of The Globalist for more analysis.

For the full 50 suggestions on how we can all hit play and improve our lives and livelihoods, pick up a copy of Monocle’s out-today February issue or buy a subscription.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Italy

Shaky ground

To the incredulity of most international onlookers, Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte (pictured), has survived no-confidence votes in both parliamentary houses this week. The ballots took place after former premier Matteo Renzi, now leader of the small centre-left party Italia Viva, withdrew his support from the governing coalition. Still, the slim margin of votes with which Conte managed to cling on will not make life easy when it comes to approving major initiatives, such as the allocation of the EU’s pandemic recovery fund. That’s why Conte’s main goal over the coming weeks will be to bring more opposition lawmakers on board to his fragile new coalition. While the crisis is yet to be fully averted, it has been remarkable to witness Conte’s dramatic shift in leadership from a year ago. Once mocked as a minor, vanilla character who had to fudge his CV to impress, he now feels like Italy’s most credible option.

Image: Getty Images

Trade / China and the EU

No big deal

Although the EU and China agreed a landmark investment deal at the end of last year in a virtual meeting (pictured), the full text has yet to be released. This has left EU parliamentarians, who have to ratify the agreement, fumbling in the dark. To help them, France’s Institut Montaigne think-tank this week released one of the first comprehensive analyses of the deal, compiled using information in the public sphere and from other sources. Its verdict? In a word, “oversold”, says François Godement, the institute’s senior advisor for Asia and author of the policy paper. Although the deal has secured some concessions from China in areas such as corporate social responsibility and workers’ rights, the key problem is that it lacks teeth. “China moved in the last few weeks of December because it was pre-empting the arrival of the Biden administration,” Godement tells The Monocle Minute. “That probably means that there was a lot to achieve in common [with the US].” The negotiations with China took seven years but had the EU waited a little longer, it might have had the leverage to secure a better deal.

Image: Mark Aspland and Frederick Kroetsch, Courtesy of Taqqut Productions & Isuma Distribution International

Media / Canada

Going native

A new 24-hour television station launched in Canada earlier this week, the first in the country’s history to broadcast entirely in Inuktitut, which is one of more than 70 indigenous languages spoken in the country. Uvagut TV, which translates loosely as “Our TV”, will offer children’s programming including Anaana’s Tent (pictured), cookery shows, indigenous films, documentaries and live shows too. Significantly, the channel will not only be broadcast in the Arctic province of Nunavut (where it is headquartered and where Inuktitut is spoken) and the surrounding regions but nationally too, via two of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies. English subtitles will be provided for non-Inuktitut speakers. The outlet is the culmination of decades of campaigning by several indigenous activist groups who have long claimed that if indigenous languages have forums in which to thrive, broader benefits – socially, culturally and in improved relations with the rest of the country – will follow.

Image: Getty Images

Arts / Singapore

Art movements

The global art calendar might look like a blank canvas right now but step a little closer and you may see a few little dots of colour. Singapore Art Week opens to the public tomorrow, running until 31 January, and the city-state’s gallery community is determined to put on a physical show despite international travel restrictions. “We didn’t just want to have the virtual format,” says Emi Eu, executive director of the international gallery STPI (see issue 99) and project director of exhibitor SEA Focus, named for its showcase of Southeast Asian art. With the show in its third year, Eu is preparing for SEA’s largest contribution yet, both in terms of duration and gallery representation. The usual booth format has been swapped for an exhibition-style set-up so that overseas galleries can still take part by sending their works to Singapore minus the staff. And, of course, the exhibition can be viewed online.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle 24 / The Globalist

Biden’s first 100 days

Monocle’s contributing editor Andrew Mueller ponders what Joe Biden will try to achieve in his first 100 days in office.

Monocle Films / Denmark

Cosy Homes: Hellerup Estate

In the first of two films to celebrate the publication of The Monocle Guide to Cosy Homes we visit the residence of Knud Erik Hansen, managing director of Carl Hansen & Søn and grandson of the company's iconic founder. Hansen has transformed an impressive Danish estate into a comfortable family home, filling it with beautiful furniture and preserving the property’s charm.


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