Monday. 24/1/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Alexis Self

Hostile environment

It’s not easy being green; or, at least, a green politician. Given their apparently extreme views and self-professed virtue, it sometimes feels as though environmentally minded lawmakers are held to higher standards than their less viridescent counterparts. That appears to be the reason that prosecutors in Berlin have launched an investigation into Germany’s Greens for doling out €1,500 payouts to the six members of its leadership team.

Of course, the payments, dubbed “corona bonuses”, could appear callous in the context of a global pandemic. The popular response seems to be that politicians – especially green ones – should recognise that the bonuses might be seen as inappropriate, whether or not they were, and that, given their politics, the Greens’ leaders, Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck (pictured), should be guided by higher principles than money. This kind of thinking is often on show when it comes to the supposed misdemeanours of left-wing politicians, who in reality are often no more or less virtuous than their right-wing opponents.

At the other end of the expectation scale is Boris Johnson, who this week will find out whether civil servant Sue Gray’s report into alleged partying at Downing Street during the UK’s first lockdown vindicates or further condemns his behaviour. Johnson is often lauded for his “Teflon” status and ability to weather any political storm but, like the aforementioned compound chemical, this reputation can wear thin. We should of course hold our public officials to high standards. But when their reputation is already so compromised that they are believed to be capable of any misdemeanour, then it is surely time to go.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Norway & Afghanistan

First aid talks

A Taliban delegation arrived in Oslo yesterday for three days of negotiations with officials from Norway and other countries about how to ease Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis. These are the first talks on Western territory since the Taliban took power in August and the fact that Norway is taking the lead is no accident. “Norway has been very forward-leaning when it comes to dialogue with the Taliban,” Kristian Berg Harpviken, research professor with the Peace Research Institute Oslo, tells The Monocle Minute, noting that the country maintained contacts with the Taliban in the 1990s and was among the first to resume dialogue after the US-led war in Afghanistan in 2001. Though the Norwegian foreign ministry insists that the meeting does not amount to recognition of the Taliban’s right to govern, Harpviken says that talks are critical for the dissemination of sorely needed aid throughout the troubled nation. Even if humanitarian funding goes directly to NGOs operating in Afghanistan, “you need a level of buy-in from the Taliban,” he says.

For more on the Taliban talks, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Society / Bolivia

Precious, little

The Alasitas festival, which starts today in La Paz, will see thousands of Bolivians turn out to buy miniature versions of all the things they want for the coming year. From imitation marriage certificates to diminutive houses, the hope is that buying these pint-sized dreams will encourage higher powers to convert these wishes into the real deal. La Paz’s Casa del Murillo is hosting an exhibition about the festival this year, which features miniatures in silver.

Alasitas (Aymara for “buy me”) is one of Bolivia’s oldest traditions but has naturally evolved over the past 200 years by fusing what was originally an indigenous harvest festival with Spanish Catholicism; somewhere down the line it became common practice for festival-goers to have their purchases blessed by a Catholic priest. With the country’s turbulent politics never far from crisis, Bolivians might content themselves with the small-scale equivalent of peace of mind.

Image: Anton Corbijn

Photography / Netherlands

Life through a lens

Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn is much more than a celebrity shutterbug. His monochrome photographs tend to bring out a rare spontaneity in his subjects and he often employs a slow shutter speed to incorporate movement and fluidity. From today his prints will be exhibited by appointment at Corbijn’s own studio space in The Hague and online. The collection of works, spanning a nearly 50-year career, are curated by Swiss auctioneer and art dealer Simon De Pury. Credited with defining the images of bands such as Joy Division and The Rolling Stones, the exhibition will run until 28 February and includes prints of David Bowie (photographed in his character from the play The Elephant Man) and Naomi Campbell (pictured). “Corbijn is probably the most important portrait photographer alive today,” De Pury tells The Monocle Minute. “While his subjects are stars from the world of music, art, fashion, cinema, literature and politics, his portraits are ultimately the images that remain engraved in your subconscious.”

Image: Agency Artifact

Urbanism / USA

Cabin pleasure

With a housing shortage in California, it might be tempting for regional governments to transform large swaths of former industrial or military land into new developments. Luckily, officials in the city of Irvine have resisted that temptation, having unveiled plans to reimagine a section of the decommissioned El Toro marine corps airfield (pictured) into a public park. Leading the charge to transform the site, which is the size of 55 football pitches, will be Toronto’s IBI Group and Rotterdam-based architecture studio MVRDV. Works will also include the refurbishment of two aircraft hangars into a complex housing a museum, library and community centre. Any sceptical southern California residents can look to Berlin for reassurance: after the closure of the city’s former airport at Tempelhof in 2008, its runways and hangars were retained as a park, replete with cultural facilities. After all, there’s a certain beauty to the open space of an airfield – a characteristic that’s ripe for preservation, even when its use changes.

Image: The Woolmark Company

M24 / Monocle On Design Extra

Canal couture

Venice’s gondoliers have a new uniform. We learn why The Woolmark Company’s high-performance merino wool is perfectly tailored for the city’s famous canals.

Monocle Films / Italy & Japan

The talent-seeker: Ryutaro Yoshida

To celebrate last year’s Milano Design City – a downsized version of the annual Salone del Mobile – we take a closer look at one of our favourite exhibitors. Here we trace the collaboration between Italy’s Boffi De Padova and Japan’s Time & Style all the way to the remote region of Shimane, meeting the artisans that craft these special products.

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