Wednesday 8 September 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 8/9/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Megan Gibson

Not to blame

Ever since Joe Biden announced his decision in April to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan – and especially since the Taliban took control of Kabul in mid-August, months sooner than predicted – there has been much talk about the fate of Afghan women under Taliban rule 2.0. It’s a concern that Biden has long tried to wash his hands of: when asked in an interview in 2020 whether he would bear any responsibility if Afghan women lost their rights under a resurgent Taliban, he responded bluntly, “Zero responsibility.” This despite the fact that women’s rights in Afghanistan have long been used as a justification for America’s war, going back to George W Bush.

Nowadays that refusal to bear the blame echoes throughout the US. It was crassly summed up in The New York Times by one indignant reader, who recently wrote that Afghan women, “should be thanking us for going there in the first place, which will hopefully inspire them to take the fight for their freedom into their own hands”. This shrugging, not-my-problem stance ignores the fact that Afghan women are fighting – and certainly with more bravery and more skin in the game than any politician or op-ed writer could muster.

Since the US completed its chaotic withdrawal, women have taken to the streets of Kabul to advocate for their right to employment, education and freedom. This past weekend, Taliban fighters turned on the peaceful protesters, with reports of gunfire, tear gas and tasers being used on the women. Unlike the US and other Western allies that have left the country, it is Afghan women who have no choice but to bear the responsibility, and consequences, of this fight.

Image: Getty Images

Travel / Hong Kong

Open and shut

Hong Kong will allow quarantine-free travel to and from China next week – the first such permissions for non-residents in almost 20 months. Yesterday’s announcement from chief executive Carrie Lam represents the first concrete steps to reopen Hong Kong’s borders to non-residents and comes just ahead of the Mooncake Festival in mid-Autumn, a popular time for travel. China usually accounts for the lion’s share of visitors to Hong Kong so Lam’s government is proceeding cautiously, with numbers capped at 2,000 a day. There are currently no plans to reduce the lengthy hotel quarantines for international arrivals. Hong Kong has a strict zero-coronavirus policy, mandated by Beijing, but the international business hub is coming under increasing pressure to reopen. Thailand said on Monday that it is expanding quarantine-free trips for vaccinated travelers and Singapore launched a “vaccinated travel lane” for select countries this week. Much of the rest of Asia is slowly beginning to open up to the world.

Image: Fachada Sul

Design / Brazil

Built to last

A plan by the Bolsonaro government to auction off federal buildings has been met with strong resistance from Brazilian architects, who have launched a public campaign to stop the sale of institutions such as the Palácio Gustavo Capanema (pictured) in Rio de Janeiro, an icon of worldwide modernism. “This is the first monument of modern architecture ever built,” Brazilian architect Carlos Eduardo Comas told The Globalist on Monocle 24. “It has a lot of pioneering elements.” Comas is working with other architects and Docomomo, a worldwide organisation for the protection of modernist architecture, to halt the auction. Asked why he thinks the auction is happening, Comas says that the government is “short of cash” but adds that selling buildings such as Capanema would show a disregard of the country’s cultural and historic heritage. International pressure, he says, just might cause the government to rethink and help to ensure these structures’ future.

Listen to the full interview with Comas on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Media / Finland

Turning the pandemic page

Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s highest-circulation newspaper, announced this week that it is shifting the focus of its coronavirus reporting away from daily infection rates and focusing instead on learning to live with the virus. From now on, the emphasis will be on aspects of the pandemic that have been getting less attention: an increase in mental-health issues; the struggles that children and young people have been facing; and the financial difficulties the Finnish culture sector in particular is experiencing. The paper will only offer updates on infection rates once a week in print (though automated graphics will still be updated online). Its decision comes as the pandemic enters a new phase, with most Finns already vaccinated. As Helsingin Sanomat points out, every reader will eventually have to decide for themselves when it’s safe to return to normal life. And when this happens, festivals, concerts and restaurant launches will get the space they deserve in the paper’s pages.

Image: Getty Images

Fashion / New York

City, slicker

New York Fashion Week starts today and it’s already clear that attendees would be smart to don comfortable footwear. To find suitable outdoor sites, designers have searched high – the Empire State Building (the choice of Queens native and popstar-favourite LaQuan Smith, pictured) and Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm (the venue for irreverent sustainable brand Collina Strada) – and low across the city’s boroughs. After an off year, the pandemic is boosting the event this time around because big-name US designers such as Thom Browne, who might in previous years have decamped to Paris or Milan, are choosing to show at home. Hotly anticipated shows cover a diverse range of style leanings, from the uptown femininity of Monse to Rodarte, whose cinematic romanticism means that its shows are often both visually arresting and topical. The latter’s often-dreamlike gowns will be an apt precursor to the long-postponed Met Ball, which will serve as a grand finale to the five days of shows.

M24 / Food Neighbourhoods

Recipe edition, Bonnie Chung

A delicious tofu recipe by Bonnie Chung, founder of food brand Miso Tasty and author of new book Tofu Tasty.

Monocle Films / Spain

Creative Mallorca

Palma has kept its charm for young creatives despite its tourist-trodden streets. We meet the people keeping this city alive.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00