Friday. 10/9/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Louis Harnett O’Meara

Grade expectations

“Education, education, education” are words that echoed through much of my youth in the UK. Spoken by Tony Blair (pictured) under New Labour in the 1990s, the political consensus that the catchy slogan acknowledged was clear: excel in the classroom and you’ll do well in life. This is the basis of meritocracy, the principle that the wheat sorts itself from chaff and those in charge are there because they are more capable. A legacy of Margaret Thatcher’s reign in the 1980s, it’s an idea that was widely propagated in Europe by an emboldened Britain during Blair’s tenure.

But Europe’s centre-left is changing. In an interview published yesterday in The Guardian, Olaf Scholz, leader of Germany’s Social Democratic Party and frontrunner to become the nation’s next chancellor, condemned the “meritocratic exuberance that has led people to believe that their success is completely self-made”. He goes on to say, “There’s nothing wrong with merit as such,” but that it should not be defined by an educated minority at the expense of people in different forms of work, such as manual labour. He ascribes the popularity of Donald Trump and Brexit to resentment caused by the idea that those who lost out in sectors including manufacturing and mining have only themselves to blame.

Scholz is addressing something that we’ve all known since choosing subjects at school: not all work is valued equally. Though Scholz’s statements might be seen by some as political expediency rather than firmly held beliefs (he could have mentioned this at any time over the past two years while he was vice-chancellor), the sentiment is welcome. The pandemic has taught us that the world isn’t always fair and that governments can, and should, support those who are left behind, especially when faced with a shrinking labour market and floundering schooling system. Placing the responsibility for society’s shortcomings on the shoulders of individuals can only go so far. At some stage, it will be the turn of the state to receive its marks. And there’s no promise of an “A”.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / Morocco

Losing faith

Morocco’s liberal parties have won the majority of seats in a parliamentary election that saw the ruling Islamists, the Justice and Development Party (PJD), suffer major losses. National Rally of Independents (RNI), a moderate secular party led by billionaire and agriculture minister Aziz Akhannouch (pictured) and closely tied to the Moroccan royal family, secured 97 of 395 seats, the highest of any party, allowing them to form a government. The PJD, which had been a coalition partner in the previous two governments, was only able to secure 12 seats. It has alleged corruption and fraud in the ballot and is challenging the result, which experts suggest there might be some truth to. “Historically speaking, fraud and vote-buying in Morocco has never been a surprise,” Rachid Touhtou, a professor of communications at the National School of Statistics and Applied Economics in Rabat, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. Touhtou suggests that the election results, coupled with the RNI’s business and royal-family ties, are a sign that Islamic parties will no longer be tolerated. Instead, they indicate an alliance aimed at “putting an end to the phenomenon of political Islam in the Arab world”.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / USA

Standard deviation

When the White House was evacuated on 11 September 2001, some staffers wound up at the offices of The Weekly Standard. The magazine’s former editor, Bill Kristol, vividly remembers the shock and frantic nature of the following hours, as the Bush administration struggled to formulate a response. He also recalls appearing on a news programme that evening and suggesting, almost flippantly, that some sort of war was likely and that Afghanistan could be at the centre of it. Twenty years later, Kristol says that it’s worth remembering the initial reasons for going into Afghanistan and argues that, despite a chaotic exit from the country, the US has succeeded in dealing a major blow to terrorism and breaking apart the networks that spawned it. Although many mistakes were made over the years – and a dark and uncertain fate befalls those left in Afghanistan today – that is a silver lining.

Listen to the interview with veteran journalist and foreign-policy advisor Bill Kristol on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’.

Image: Shutterstock

Transport / Spain

Stuck at the gate

Getting an airport expansion off the ground these days is no easy task. Beyond the dented numbers of travellers due to the pandemic, heated environmental discussions also accompany any such move – just look at the controversy over a proposed third runway at London’s Heathrow. Barcelona’s El Prat airport (pictured), which was struggling for capacity before the pandemic stopped nearly all travel, was supposed to be enlarging its runways and receiving €1.7m in government funding to do so. But disagreements within the current national coalition as well as with the regional Catalan government, the Generalitat, mean that the plans have now been frozen for at least five years. The decision was announced this week by transport minister Raquel Sánchez, who cited the lack of cohesion between political partners. Turbulent times, one might say, but it remains important for airports everywhere to remain long-sighted.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Design / Italy

Sitting pretty

Milan Design Week officially wraps up today and, after a year of delays and postponements, it’s worth celebrating the brands whose exhibitions matched the triumph of the event’s return. Our pick of the bunch was Hermès’ transformation of an indoor sports court into a small village dedicated to the artisans behind its latest interior-design collection.

The space was designed by Hermès Maison’s co-artistic director Charlotte Macaux Perelman and is populated by five “houses”. Placed on literal pedestals inside are the fashion house’s objects and fabrics, including a beechwood and papier-mâché chair designed by Studio Mumbai and assembled in Puglia (pictured). It’s a move that elevates and enhances the visitor experience, giving the furniture and homewares a presence normally associated with an appearance in a museum. Such approaches set Salone del Mobile apart from a trip to a furniture showroom at any other time of the year – and are the reason we’re already looking forward to next year’s event.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Palisociety

Avi Brosh is the founder of Los Angeles-based hotel brand Palisociety, which is behind a growing collection of boutique, low key-count establishments across the US. The former residential developer knows a thing or two about spotting a location with potential, and with discerning taste and a vision for each project, has been able to keep the group’s hotels very much on point. This week we ask: what makes a great small hotel?

Monocle Films / Global

The Monocle Book of Homes

Allow us to introduce you to The Monocle Book of Homes. A guide to exceptional residences, the title is packed with beautiful photography, inspiring stories ­and few tips on making the most of your living space. So what are you waiting for? Come on in. Available now at The Monocle Shop.

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