Monday. 15/8/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Stefanie Glinski

All hope lost

The Taliban aren’t going anywhere. They rapidly took over one province after the other, until eventually walking into Kabul a year ago today. There is opposition, of course, but no one who is able to seriously threaten their established Islamic emirate. What we’ve seen over the past year is an insurgency group turned government – and it hasn’t worked out as well as they would have liked to, even though they are trying. State-building capacity is low, many qualified people have fled and the Taliban isn’t quite capable of governing as they can’t agree on their policies.

The response of ordinary Afghans varies. Many are glad that fighting has stopped and that mobility has increased. Previously, it was too dangerous to travel on many roads and in entire provinces, which isn’t the case anymore. At the same time, Afghanistan has slipped even deeper into poverty as bank reserves are frozen in foreign accounts and development funds have dried up. Desperation is widespread because people can’t afford basic necessities. I’ve spoken to women in more than 20 provinces over the past year and they have all told me that they feel hopeless. There are no job opportunities, girls can’t go to high school and, once again, the Taliban is suggesting that women should cover up, including their faces, or stay at home if they can.

Over the past four years of working in Afghanistan, I had always caught a glimmer of hope when speaking to people but I’ve witnessed this being extinguished since last August. Yes, the war is over but many Afghans continue to live in fear. Women, especially, now feel as though there is no place for their ambitions or dreams.

Kabul has always been a vibrant city, full of life even amid horrendous attacks and rampant insecurity – coffee shops bustling with young people, hikers taking to the mountains on weekends; some would take their loudspeakers for an impromptu dance session. Many Afghans say that Kabul’s spark has died. The Taliban constantly tell me that everything is better, that people are happier, but many of them hadn’t seen Kabul before last year; otherwise, they too would know that this is a changed city, a changed country; or perhaps they do know but don’t want to admit it. There’s no war, maybe more security – but there’s less hope.

Stefanie Glinski is a freelance journalist based in Afghanistan. Hear more from her on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Energy / Germany & Norway

Out in the cold

When Norway’s prime minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, visited Berlin in January, German chancellor Olaf Scholz (pictured, on right, with Støre) hailed the potential for a “better, deeper energy partnership”. This became all the more important after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February left Germany in desperate need of alternative energy sources. In March the two nations agreed to explore future co-operation on hydropower and carbon capture and storage. But when Scholz travels to Oslo today for a meeting of Nordic prime ministers, the mood will be very different. Norway, which is already Germany’s largest energy supplier, said last week that it is considering electricity-export controls due to a combination of high demand back home and a lack of summer rain that depleted water reserves, forcing Norway’s hydropower producers to cut output ahead of the winter. No doubt Scholz will attempt to get Støre to change his mind during their bilateral meeting today; Germany is fast running out of winter heating options.

Image: Rivian

Business / Global

Driving sales

Supply issues have caused a surge in car prices since 2019, resulting in dampened sales. Between that and the shift to online purchasing, the crumpled car salesman, an instantaneously recognisable figure of US lore, could slide into obsolescence. Now several prominent manufacturers and young electric vehicle companies (EVs accounted for all the net growth in global car sales in 2021) are eschewing the legacy dealership model and developing new ways of using physical spaces to sell their cars.

Rivian’s Los Angeles flagship (pictured) resembles a modern community centre, while Polestar’s showrooms across Europe, Asia and the US could pass for a Bond villain’s lair. Both companies have renounced salespeople, boasting about their on-hand product experts instead. Denise Cherry, who designed the Rivian facility, describes it as a “space to inspire and educate people”. Any car salesmen who refuse to get on board will have to take their hustle elsewhere.

Read more about the power of the new showrooms in the July/August issue of Monocle, on newsstands now.

Image: Getty Images

Culture / UK

Show business

In May next year the Eurovision Song Contest will be hosted by the UK on behalf of this year’s winners, Ukraine. Last week the BBC released the shortlist of seven cities in the running to stage the event: Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield. It was a breath of fresh air to see a list that didn’t include London and was mostly composed of places that haven’t held the competition before.

The UK has put on Eurovision a record eight times: four in London, including in 1977 (pictured), and once each in Edinburgh, Brighton, Harrogate and Birmingham. The contest is a costly affair with a price tag of more than €20m. But with about 160 million people watching, it has the potential to provide a major economic return, particularly in the form of tourism. Applicants be warned: locals should be ready to truly welcome all the music lovers and energetic party-goers who make Eurovision such a unique experience.

Image: Getty Images

Urbanism / USA

Rocky roads

There’s a fight under way for the streets of Los Angeles: walking or cycling is getting more dangerous, residents say, following a slew of deadly incidents. Some Angelenos have even taken it upon themselves to paint their own pedestrian crossings to slow down traffic. Now LA city council is forcing a profound shift, as it will either approve or put to a public vote a long-stalled plan to widen pavements, install cycle lanes and plant trees on some of the city’s most iconic (and car-dominated) boulevards whenever they are up for repaving.

The plan will even give residents the power to sue the city if it doesn’t happen in their neighbourhood. Michael Schneider of the activist group Streets for All calls this the “nuclear option” but necessary, since motorists have pushed back hard on having their streets narrowed. It sets the stage for change in a city where the car is king, albeit not without some likely road rage.

Image: Shutterstock

Monocle 24 / The Global Countdown

Pop charts in the US

Monocle 24’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco looks at the top songs in the United States.

Monocle Films / Paris

How to enjoy life

Join us for a whirlwind tour around the cobbled streets, cocktail bars and jazz lounges of Paris to explore how to enjoy the small things in life and find out why hedonism (in moderation) matters.

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