Wednesday. 17/8/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Ladder of law

One of the most disheartening comments on my recent visit to Ukraine for Monocle had less to do with the war and more to do with my home country, the US. A couple who had fled from the southern port city of Mariupol to western Lviv told me that they considered seeking asylum in the US but, upon further reading, had demurred. The recent abortion ruling, societal divisions and right-wing tendencies had scared them off. I’m not so naive as to believe that the US remains a shining city on a hill – perhaps we never were – but there’s something about a couple who are fleeing war rejecting your home country as an alternative that makes this reality hit home.

Following the coverage of the FBI’s recent raid of Donald Trump’s Florida home – and the visceral response from America’s entrenched camps – affected me in a different way. One of the hallmarks of an independent judicial system is the presumption of innocence. We should assume that someone is innocent until proven guilty, even Trump, but we must equally trust that federal investigations are conducted in good faith. Instead, Trump’s Republican backers claim that the mere fact that the US Department of Justice has dared to investigate the former president is somehow evidence of America becoming a “third-world country”.

It’s hard to overstate how damaging this kind of rhetoric is. Whatever side of the political aisle we’re on, Americans live in a liberal democracy. No one is above the law. Other developed countries have successfully prosecuted leaders – Silvio Berlusconi and Benjamin Netanyahu come to mind. While it’s never easy, it’s a hallmark of a democracy that it can hold its leaders to account. Are we incapable of that in the US? If that’s the case, the country really does deserve to lose its city-on-a-hill reputation that we have clung to for so long.

Christopher Cermak is Monocle’s news editor.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Indonesia

Hope springs eternal

As Indonesia celebrates its independence today, Southeast Asia’s largest economy is a rare bright spot in the world: a growing middle class is driving up consumer spending, poverty is in decline and there’s a sense of optimism in the air. President Joko Widodo (pictured) deserves credit for steering his country through several global storms and “Jokowi”, as he is commonly known, has dreams of Indonesia becoming a top-five global economy by the time of its centenary celebrations in 2045. With less than two years remaining of his term of office, the former furniture-factory owner is now stepping into uncharted waters. Indonesia is preparing to host the G20 summit in November and Widodo is attempting to welcome the presidents of the US, Russia and China in the same Balinese conference room. During yesterday’s state of the nation address, he described Indonesia as a “diplomatic bridge”. The prospect of achieving any kind of consensus between the world’s major powers seems remote but Widodo should be applauded for trying. The world could certainly use a little Indonesian optimism right now.

Look out for Monocle’s interview with Joko Widodo in the September issue of the magazine. Subscribe now to get your copy, or pick one up on newsstands in the coming days.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Mali

Soldiering on

French troops officially withdrew from Mali this week, following a collapse in relations between Paris and Bamako earlier this year. The French government, however, insists that it will remain engaged in fighting terrorism in the wider Sahel. There are plans for France and its allies to lead the battle against the region’s militants from Niger, with additional troops to be based in Chad.

“The breakdown in relations with the junta in Bamako had rendered withdrawal inevitable,” Paul Melly, consulting fellow at Chatham House’s Africa Programme, tells The Monocle Minute. “The key test will be how effective the French and their fellow Europeans are in collaborating with other West African armies in tackling armed groups and sustaining development programmes.” Recent coups in Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso have weakened alliances in France’s former colonies and Melly says that more challenges are still to come. France’s resolve to play a constructive role in the volatile region will continue to be tested.

Hear more from Paul Melly on the future of the Sahel on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Economy / UK

Stopping the rot

In June the UK’s Conservative party presented its food strategy to parliament, promising “new opportunities available to us following Brexit”. Just two months later, it’s clear that its optimism was misplaced. According to a survey conducted by the National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales (NFU), published this week, as much as £60m (€72m) worth of fruit and vegetables were left to rot, partly as a result of Brexit-related workforce shortages in the first half of 2022.

UK farms rely on foreign labour and require 70,000 or so workers to function. This year, however, just 38,000 visas have been made available under the country’s Seasonal Workers Scheme. “It’s nothing short of a travesty that quality, nutritious food is being wasted at a time when families across the country are already struggling to make ends meet,” said the NFU’s deputy president, Tom Bradshaw. If national resilience depends on successful domestic production, as the government has argued, we need an urgent course correction.

Image: Alamy

Art / Monaco

Heart and sole

There might be no better place to host an exhibition on Christian Louboutin (pictured) than Monaco. The principality has had a significant influence on the shoe designer’s career: Princess Caroline was his best-known customer in the 1990s and her support helped to launch his Paris shoe salon.

This summer, curator Olivier Gabet has taken on the huge task of exhibiting Louboutin’s fashion and art collaborations within the 2,000 sq m Grimaldi Forum Monaco. Much larger than the Palais de la Porte Dorée, which hosted the exhibition’s first iteration in 2020, the venue brings together objects from both public and private collections, including Louboutin’s own. Here, Gabet introduces audiences to the local and international contexts of Louboutin’s designs, ranging from Oceanic and African art to the work of British pop artist Allen Jones and New Zealand’s Lisa Reihana. The exhibition runs until 28 August.

Image: Universal Studios

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Culture

‘Nope’

Acclaimed screenwriter and director Jordan Peele is back with another ambitious and eerie cinematic extravaganza, Nope. Critics Leila Latif and Tim Robey join Robert Bound in the studio to discuss their thoughts on the film and examine its abundance of cinematic references.

Monocle Films / Greece

Why Greeks live longer

Nestled in the heart of the Aegean, the island of Ikaria used to be a secluded spot with a humble and unhurried way of life. Today, a third of the island’s population lives to be more than 90 years old. We venture to the local kafeneios, wild beaches and abundant allotments to meet the bronzed seniors.

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