Tuesday. 14/9/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Both sides now

Many of us endure a moment of political despair at some point in our lives. Mine came in 2018 with Jair Bolsonaro’s election as president of Brazil. I feared that his victory would have a damaging effect on my country’s psyche.

In the weeks before the election I had long conversations with his supporters, trying to understand his appeal. These discussions were often insightful but it was still hard to accept that Bolsonaro had so much backing. It made me question whether my patriotism was misplaced, even if that might sound childish to some. Nonetheless, I’ve always believed that I can remain friends with people who hold fundamentally different views from my own.

Bolsonaro’s popularity has since plummeted and his approval ratings are at a record low. The reasons for this range from his incompetent handling of the pandemic to the country’s struggling economy. In the past week I’ve spoken with a few former supporters who expressed regret about voting for him. I was tempted to say, “I told you so,” but I bit my lip and listened. Arrogant retorts won’t change minds, nor are they likely to translate into votes for your own preferred candidate.

It’s not easy being Brazilian these days. My home country has become politically divided in a way that I never thought possible. All I can say for now is that no matter where your political allegiance lies, let us breathe ahead of next year’s presidential election and engage in honest conversations – with our friends and foes alike.

Image: Alamy

Diplomacy / North Korea

Striking distance

Alarm bells are ringing in east Asia following North Korea’s announcement that it had successfully tested a new type of long-range cruise missile, which reportedly flew 1,500km before hitting their targets. That puts Japan, South Korea and their respective US bases within striking distance of a hard-to-detect, potentially nuclear-capable missile. Japanese chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said that the region’s “peace and safety” were under threat. Though the tests were the first since March, they didn’t come entirely out of the blue: Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong had condemned the annual joint military exercises between the US and “treacherous” South Korea last month and promised that the North would increase its defence and strike capability. Denuclearisation talks were paused in 2019 and US offers to meet the North Koreans “anywhere and at any time” have fallen on deaf ears. With tensions rising, it’s hard to see what will break the current stalemate.

For more on this story, including from the former UK ambassador to North Korea John Everard, tune in to the latest edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / France

Greening the field

On Sunday Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo (pictured) entered a crowded field to lead France, announcing her candidacy for president. The French capital’s first female mayor, Hidalgo represents the Socialist Party and, since taking the role in 2014, has become best known for her green policies, including campaigns to reduce the number of cars and boost cycling infrastructure. If elected president, she pledges to incentivise the low-carbon economy in France, which she says could help bring manufacturing jobs back from abroad. While such policies are popular among city-dwelling progressives, Hidalgo has also been travelling to smaller towns and villages over the summer to broaden her appeal outside the Périphérique. Recent polling ahead of next April’s election has president Emmanuel Macron in the lead, closely followed by far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Hidalgo’s late entry into the race means she has precious little time to prove that her connection to the people of Paris can resonate further afield.

For more on Hidalgo and the latest on France’s presidential election, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Adam Mork

Climate / Greenland

Thaw data

A new climate research and visitor centre has just been completed in Greenland, some 250km north of the Arctic Circle. The Ilulissat Icefjord Centre aims to improve our understanding of the effects of climate change on the region and was designed by Danish architecture firm Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter. Sitting alongside ice fjords and mountainous expanses, the triangular structure was designed with its surroundings in mind. Floor-to-ceiling windows make the most of the varied shades of light in this part of the world, while a rooftop viewing platform help to bring the environment into sight. Situated at the end of a hiking trail and including a gallery, cinema and café, it’s expected to be popular with tourists and researchers alike. If all goes to plan, this space could serve as a model for combining leisurely pursuits with a more serious purpose.

Image: James Mollison

Defence / Vatican

Miss Swiss guard?

The barracks of the Vatican’s Pontifical Swiss Guard are due for a €46m refurbishment, to be completed by 2026, upgrading the guards’ quarters to single rooms with private bathrooms. The new barracks will also be designed to house female guards, even though the admission of women has yet to be authorised. Often dubbed the “world’s smallest army”, the Swiss Guards are an elite corps renowned for their colourful striped uniform (and occasionally feathered) headgear, which dates back to medieval times. Tasked with protecting the Pope, all recruits must be male Swiss citizens of a certain age and height, practising Catholics and “of good moral ethical background”. Yet with applications down, accepting women would make sense, says former Vatican correspondent Juliet Linley. But will the Vatican allow it? “It looks to me more like the Swiss are trying to advance their own agenda on equality, rather than a sign that the Pope is on the verge of a groundbreaking about-turn,” says Linley.

For more from Juliet Linley on this story, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Briefing’, live at noon London time, on Monocle 24.

M24 / The Menu

From the Netherlands to London

We speak to the founder of The Seafood Bar, a Dutch hit restaurant concept that’s just opened in London. Also in the programme: the latest food and drink news from Latin America.

Monocle Films / Japan

The bold business owner: Takeshi Yamanaka

In 1928 Maruni Wood Industry was born out of a fascination with the masterful carpentry in ancient shrines. Today its furniture is found in the Californian headquarters of Apple as well as airport lounges, galleries and restaurants around the world. We meet the company’s president to talk about the challenges of managing a family-run business.

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