Wednesday. 23/2/2022

The Monocle Minute

Back track

In honour of our magazine’s 15th anniversary, we’ll be featuring a series of voices throughout this week to explore how the world has changed between 2007 and today. Join us for a range of viewpoints and don’t forget to pick up a copy of our special anniversary issue, which is out today.

Image: Felix Brüggemann

Opinion / Julia Hobsbawm

Office space

I tend to measure the passage of time by technological phases: I’m no tech geek (my pride and joy is an enormous Smythson paper desk diary) but I do this because everything that happens to who we are and how we live and work can now be measured by what we do digitally. Much of this, ironically enough, began in earnest exactly at the time that Monocle magazine was born.

In 2007 the internet combined with the arrival of smartphones and we began to be defined more and more by one word: mobility. The iPhone and the rising prominence of Airbnb, Twitter and Facebook opened our eyes to the world and the possibility that we could travel more widely. Conferences boomed. Cities flourished. Cheap travel, smart luggage and global brands thrived. It was the year that Tim Ferris’s best-selling book The Four Hour Work-Week posited the view that you could work from anywhere and lifted the lid off the formal approach to fixed office life; WeWork arrived in 2010. And after the pandemic sparked two years of on-off lockdowns, full mobility – or what I call the “nowhere office” era – has become the new normal.

But mobility shouldn’t mean working in a vacuum. Coronavirus connected everyone to their mortality – and therefore to what they value more in life. Work now has to work harder to attract our time and energy. I learned this the year Monocle was founded. In 2007 I nearly died. I caught pneumonia and sepsis, and in the months of recovery I re-evaluated my priorities. The same thing I did then is happening today at scale. We want every day to be filled not just with mobility and choice but something else too: meaning. What the debate about the upside of remote working has missed is that in-person social connection – in the workplace and beyond it – is still what we should value most.

Julia Hobsbawm is an entrepreneur and writer. Her latest book, ‘The Nowhere Office: Reinventing Work and the Workplace of the Future’, is out now. For more on how the world has turned in the past 15 years and what’s next, subscribe to Monocle now for a copy of our special 15th anniversary issue or pick one up on newsstands from Thursday.

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion 02 / Anastacia Galouchka

Plans of attack

Today’s situation in Ukraine is a massive failure of international diplomacy. The nation’s Western allies, by publicly stating that they will not run military interference in case of a full-scale invasion, have essentially given the Kremlin the green light. It would have been better to spend the past two months creating a step-by-step roadmap for harsher sanctions (including the carrot-and-stick possibility of rolling back those same sanctions). Maximum efficiency would have involved implementing co-ordinated restrictions against the entire Russian-oligarch community and their entourage – a few thousand if not tens of thousands of people. It would be a massive undertaking, which is why this should have started years ago. But it would paralyse the Russian aristocracy and hit them where it hurts. Ideally, this would be the first step, taken today, to send out a strong signal. It is frankly embarrassing and baffling to see Western foreign ministries scrambling to throw some form of sanction on the table, with seemingly zero co-ordination. That lack of a unified response translates into weakness of any sanctions that are implemented.

Galouchka is a Belgian-Ukrainian governance specialist and an expert in foreign policy and international law at the International Centre for Policy Studies in Kyiv. Hear more from her on the latest episode of ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Singapore

Lying low

Singapore’s opposition leader Pritram Singh could face criminal prosecution after a parliamentary scandal involving a former member of his Workers’ Party. Raeesah Khan admitted to lying about allegations she made regarding the police during a parliamentary debate last year and later resigned. Last week, Singaporean lawmakers fined Khan and referred Singh to the attorney-general, accepting a committee’s finding that the opposition leader lied under oath during their investigation.

Singh (pictured) has denied directing Khan to continue lying and welcomed the opportunity to clear his name. He’s also suggested that “political partisanship” is at play: the committee and parliament are dominated by the People’s Action Party, which has governed Singapore since its independence in 1965. The Workers’ Party surprised many by winning 10 of the 93 available seats in the last election, the most by any opposition party in almost 60 years. A criminal conviction could end the career of one of Singapore’s rising stars – and call into question the future of its only elected opposition.

Image: Getty Images

Transport / USA

Road warriors

A new proposal from California senator Scott Wiener could make permanent a temporary law introduced during the pandemic in 2020. The law, set to expire in 2023, exempted transit, bike and pedestrian projects from needing to be assessed by the California Environmental Quality Act, which uses 18 different categories to evaluate projects, looking at factors from aesthetics to noise pollution. Ironically, everyone from developers to resident groups had used the law in its previous form to put the kibosh on projects that are undoubtedly good for the environment, such as cycle lanes. By keeping the exemptions in place for the long-term, pedestrian-friendly initiatives can now proceed relatively uninhibited. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has already praised the temporary law for allowing it to fast-track projects, such as by quickly designating traffic lanes for buses. Making it permanent would be a big win for pedestrian-centred transit – and should inspire other cities to consider making environmentally friendly projects easier to roll out.

Image: Inscéal

Cinema / Ireland

Real to reel

Dublin’s International Film Festival kicks off today with screenings and events spread across venues around the Irish capital. This year’s edition opens with Irish director Colm Bairéad’s coming-of-age tale The Quiet Girl (pictured) and close with Jono McLeod’s Scottish high school documentary My Old School on 6 March. Here are some other highlights:

‘Bergman Island’, Mia Hansen-Løve. This poignant film follows a screenwriting couple who retreat to the island that inspired Ingmar Bergman. There, the lines between reality and fiction start to blur.

‘About Joan’, Laurent Larivière. In this French-German-Irish production, Isabelle Huppert plays a woman who retreats to the countryside with her son to revisit past decisions, after being overwhelmed by an encounter with her first love. A film about our rose-tinted reflections of the past.

‘Casablanca Beats’, Nabil Ayouch. The French-Moroccan director’s Palme d’Or-shortlisted feature follows a group of children as they begin to find their political voices through music and dance. A moving look at discovering your passion.

Image: Sophie Bramley

M24 / Monocle On Culture

The evolution of hip-hop

Hip-hop has taken over the mainstream since it was born in the Bronx house parties of the 1970s. Sophie Bramly’s recent book of photography Yo! The Early Days of Hip-Hop 1982-84 documents its rise, while a new documentary Jeen-Yuhs charts the contribution of one of the genre’s most important innovators, Kanye West. Robert Bound is joined by The New Yorker staff writer Kelefa Sanneh to discuss the evolution of what is arguably America’s most significant cultural export.

Monocle Films / Global

Retail special: tasty tipples

Monocle Films visits makers of sherry, gin and whiskey to discover their recipes for success. The memorable flavours and sharp designs of their refined drinks are a perfect tonic for the year ahead.

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