Friday 9 July 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 9/7/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Megan Gibson

Change for good

For weeks now I’ve had three £1 coins jangling around in my coat pocket; it’s surprisingly tricky to find a place that will accept cash. Everywhere you look, peeling “cards only” signs are still taped up at tills. I understood the reasoning for this in the early days of the pandemic, when the spread of coronavirus was still largely a mystery. But we’ve since learned that it’s mostly an airborne disease, so is there much evidence to continue these policies? Surely we can go back to paying for the occasional flat white with notes and coins again?

It’s not just the minor inconvenience of being stuck with coins. There are many people for whom a ban on cash payments is a serious barrier. For those on the margins of life in our cities, such as the homeless or people without bank accounts (let alone Apple Pay), paying for goods and services with physical money is the only option. So it’s heartening to learn that a congresswoman from New York, Nydia Velázquez, has introduced a bill in the US that would require all public transit companies to accept cash for tickets.

Better still, the bill would require that an actual human is on hand to accept said cash, rather than leaving physical payments to vending machines, which are often out of order or can be confusing to use for some elderly people, the developmentally disabled and the easily flustered. While many have hailed the convenience of most transactions going digital over the past 18 months, it’s reassuring to see that some people are still looking out for those who aren’t able to tap their way through every purchase.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Lebanon

Dire need

Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister Hassan Diab (pictured) has warned that his nation is on the verge of major civil unrest – a “social explosion” as he described it – and that the international community must act to help stem its deep and far-reaching crisis. The World Bank says that Lebanon has suffered one of the worst economic collapses of any country since the 1850s, exacerbated by dire leadership and sectarian infighting. “There is a sense of real despondency among the Lebanese people at the moment. It’s very hard to find reasons for optimism and so a lot of people are leaving,” Tom Fletcher, who served as the UK’s ambassador in Beirut between 2011 and 2015, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “We can either wait for this to get even worse – for some sort of disaster to happen and prompt us into action – or we have to find ways to rally and get some sort of basic support.”

Image: Getty Images

Society / Germany

At odds

Germany’s latest annual report on the state of unification – particularly the integration of its formerly communist eastern regions – makes for sobering reading. On one hand, the economic gulf between east and west is decreasing: eastern states’ GDP is about 81 per cent of the national average.

The government’s commissioner for eastern Germany, Marco Wanderwitz, says that the expansion of mobile and broadband network infrastructure in particular has been a “gigantic success story”. But politically speaking it’s a different matter: eastern voters remain deeply disaffected with the government and many have swung their support to the far-right, anti-establishment Alternative for Germany, which held its party conference this year in Dresden (pictured). Wanderwitz himself recently drew criticism for suggesting that eastern states were unable to adjust to living in a democracy. Germany’s unification might be irreversible but what’s clear is that more engagement is essential if the federal government hopes to keep eastern residents truly integrated into German society.

Image: Shutterstock

Arts / Cuba & Spain

Creative clash

A clampdown on artistic freedoms in Cuba has reverberated around the Spanish-speaking world. Yesterday, Madrid’s international contemporary art fair Arco became a forum for denouncing Cuba’s recent actions. Organised by Marco Castillo, a member of the renowned art collective Los Carpinteros, alongside several curators, the urgent conversation was sparked by the arrest of Castillo’s friend and artist Hamlet Lavastida, who has been labelled a “dissident” and was detained in Cuba at the end of June. Lavastida returned to the Caribbean island after a year-long residency in Berlin and was arrested on nebulous charges of “incitement to commit a crime”; he is accused of asking artists to mark Cuban banknotes with opposition symbols via a private chat message (the suggestion was never acted upon). In solidarity, artists in Madrid are now clubbing together to print similar notes (pictured) and throw them around the exhibition space. Arco, which runs until Sunday, promises to be spicy.

Image: Getty Images

Music / Hong Kong

Tuning in

Teenagers in Hong Kong are getting giddy about a new generation of local performers, most of whom are too young to remember the 1990s heyday of Canto-pop. Fans of Anson Lo (pictured), who turned 26 this week, clubbed together to buy bus advertising and a giant billboard to wish him a happy birthday. Lo is a member of Mirror, a 12-piece boy band created by Hong Kong television station Viu TV. Mirror rose to stardom during the protests in 2019 and currently headlines a growing line-up of Cantonese pop stars who are giving a voice ⎯⎯ and some uplifting lyrics ⎯⎯ to Hong Kong’s beleaguered youth. These acts might struggle to find an audience in mainland China, let alone take on K-pop’s dominant hit factory, but that’s only likely to boost their appeal at home. Lo launched a solo career last year and is currently starring with fellow band member Edan Lui in Ossan’s Love, a remake of a Japanese same-sex romantic comedy series that has become must-see primetime TV viewing for granddaughters and grandmothers alike.

M24 / Monocle on Culture

Summer lookahead 2021

Simran Hans, Chris Power and Kathlene Fox-Davies give us their top tips for the films to watch, books to read and art exhibitions to catch this summer.

Monocle Films / Poland

Warsaw: Pole position

Warsaw’s dour-from-afar image is dispelling as a new generation of makers, restaurateurs and start-ups help to redefine Poland’s capital.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00