Thursday 8 April 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 8/4/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

Talking trash

City living can be a grotty business. Over the past week, Paris’s leaders have borne the brunt of a social media campaign under the hashtag “Saccage Paris” (“Paris destroyed”), which dolefully depicts streets strewn with rubbish, overflowing bins, graffiti and general disrepair across the French capital. The trash talk is being levelled against the governing Socialist Party leadership and has been used by its detractors to imply a wider malaise. The political message in a limited number of characters? That the civic leadership is rubbish.

On the far right, Marine Le Pen says that the issue shows the “decay” of Paris, while the city’s left-leaning deputy mayor Emmanuel Grégoire tried to sweep the issue under the carpet by noting that all major cities have similar issues with sanitation and pointing the finger at London. The truth – judging by the flotsam, jetsam and brimming bins in the UK capital – is that he’s right. Paris, like many stretched and increasingly cash-strapped cities, is struggling with the fallout from increased home deliveries, a packaging boom from populations broadly confined to their homes and a lack of bins (and toilets) in public spaces.

Most intriguing to me is Grégoire’s suggestion this week on French radio station RTL that “if you take a picture every day of the worst moment of your daily life, that isn’t reality”. Maybe Monsieur Grégoire is technically correct: these images don’t show nuance or the cleaner corners of the city. But the sentiment shows a naiveté about the social media-run world in which he’s governing. He and his party will need to address the issue and clean up the streets to restore the party’s reputation. More broadly, though, the issue of sanitation in our cities isn’t just a Paris problem.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Libya

Keeping the peace

Mario Draghi headed to Libya on Tuesday on his first official trip abroad, in a bid to strengthen bilateral ties with Italy’s former colony. He was the second European leader to make an appearance in Tripoli this week: Greece’s prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also visited on Tuesday and reopened the nation’s embassy in the capital. After an almost 10 year-long civil war between western and eastern factions, foreign leaders are piling the pressure on Libya’s transitional government, led by Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh (pictured, on right, with Draghi), to uphold the country’s ceasefire and stick to a timeline for holding elections in December. “The flurry of high-level European visits to the Libyan capital over the past month shows high optimism regarding the country’s new government,” says Mary Fitzgerald, associate fellow at the London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and an expert on Libya. But, she warns, “major challenges remain and hopes for national elections could yet be dashed”. All the more reason to keep attention focused on this fragile nation.

For more on Libya, listen to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Defence / Germany & Japan

Sea sense

Germany and Japan will hold their first “2+2” meeting of foreign and defence ministers next week to deepen security cooperation. The (digital) discussions stem from newly shared fears over the Indo-Pacific region and will aim to ensure that sea lanes remain open and safe. The background is that China has been flexing its maritime muscles in the South China Sea and could move beyond those disputed waters if left unchecked.

A regional policy review by Germany in September went as far as to say that the Indo-Pacific would be where the future “international rules-based order” is decided. Germany also plans to send a frigate to the region this summer and is considering joint exercises with the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force, according to Japan’s public broadcaster NHK. For Germany, it might mark the start of a shift from a more China-centred diplomacy in Asia in past years towards a Japan-oriented one. Tokyo is responding to the call.

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / UK

Up in the air

While the UK government debates how to lift international travel restrictions, some of the country’s biggest aviation chiefs are demanding solutions. The CEOs of London’s Heathrow Airport, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have called for clarity about what lies ahead and for the swift reopening of transatlantic routes. They fear that the UK government’s cautious approach ahead of 17 May – the earliest date that foreign travel to selected countries could be allowed – might unnecessarily limit the summer tourism season. Meanwhile, despite the uncertainty, the transatlantic market is heating up. US airline Jetblue announced details of its first route to London, due to launch in the summer. New flights from New York and Boston will challenge the more established competitors with promises of free wi-fi in all classes, more legroom and better meals in economy. If vaccine drives continue successfully on both sides of the Atlantic then the summer holiday season could be busier than expected.

Image: B. Jacot

Culture / Geneva

Come together

Museums aren’t always seen as evening gathering places but the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire (MAH) in Geneva is hoping to change that. Its new series carte blanche aims to style the museum more as a communal living room, offering rotating exhibitions and an atmosphere to which people will want to come after work to relax. Curators will pick items from the museum’s 650,000-strong archive to display throughout the museum. One of the first such exhibitions this year has been Walk on the Water by Jakob Lena Knebl (pictured). Marc-Olivier Wahler, director of MAH since 2019, says that he wants to increase the engagement of the community by showcasing its collection from unusual points of view. The idea is for art to be experienced all around the museum, from the lobby to the locker rooms. Such new communal spaces, after many months at home, would be a welcome addition to any city.

M24 / The Menu

Food Neighbourhoods 229: Recipe edition, Karan Gokani

A recipe for homemade paneer cheese by the man behind London’s beloved Hoppers restaurants.

Monocle Films / Shimane Prefecture

The master craftsman: Shimada Takayuki

The unassuming Shimada Gama workshop in Gotsu doubles up as an open-air museum of traditional stoneware pottery. It specialises in creating large pieces that are burnt in a sloped wood-fired kiln. We talk to the 73-year-old master Shimada Takayuki about the challenges of passing the rare skill and aesthetic sensibility down to his son and grandson.


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