Wednesday 9 November 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 9/11/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Mathew Scott

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

Leading the line

A man in rolled-up shirtsleeves is holding a sledgehammer in front of a slate-grey concrete slab in the shape of Texas. A voiceover informs us that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke – played by an actor with his back to us who is now hoisting the hammer menacingly – will destroy the Lone Star State if he is elected instead of the two-term Republican incumbent, Greg Abbott.

Despite the slick production, this attack ad, aired ahead of the midterm elections yesterday, felt like a sad reflection on political discourse in the US: adversarial, oddly personal and keener on pointing out differences than any common ground. And that’s not to mention the ever-present threat of violence.

The Monocle team has been observing the electioneering and division up close in Dallas, where we have come for The Chiefs, our conference about leadership and how to improve our lives and livelihoods. Last night we heard from the city’s charismatic Democratic mayor, Eric Johnson, about the challenges that the fast-growing metropolis faces, as well as its opportunities. Today we’ll speak to the executive editor of The Dallas Morning News, Katrice Hardy, about the importance of being balanced, telling the truth and serving your community. Both represent a diversity of thought, serious leadership and a sincere search for ways of doing things better in a divided US.

Back in the attack ad, the salt-and-pepper-haired O’Rourke character has pummelled the concrete Texas into debris – having raised taxes and freed all of the criminals, as the ad warned us that he might. As for Abbott, on whose behalf the ad was aired? I sense that he’s more concerned with battering his rivals and besmirching their reputations than talking about his policies.

The point that really needs hammering home? At their best, good leaders listen, are constructive, try to patch up divisions and bolt together agreements – even if that means working with people who disagree with them. They don’t smash things to smithereens, then check what’s left when the dust settles.

Josh Fehnert is Monocle’s editor. Listen to Monocle 24 for our coverage of the US midterm results.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Greece

Watching the watchers

The Greek government has been plunged deeper into crisis by new revelations in a spying scandal that has implicated the country’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis (pictured). Last weekend, newspaper Documento published a list of journalists, businesspeople and politicians – including the finance and foreign ministers – whose mobile phones had been targeted using malicious surveillance software. Also on the list was opposition leader Nikos Androulakis, whose announcement in the summer that he had been the victim of an attempted wiretap triggered the ongoing drama. Mitsotakis was eventually forced to admit that Androulakis had been under legal state surveillance. The prime minister has denied that he is aware of any other cases but many remain unconvinced and the pressure for him to resign is rising. Even if he survives in the short term, his political future is uncertain.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / South Korea

Dog gone shame

Animals have long played a part in diplomacy but sending pets as gestures of goodwill doesn’t always work out as planned. This week, South Korea’s former president Moon Jae-in (pictured) announced that he would be returning a pair of dogs (and their puppy) that had been presented to him by North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in 2018.

It appears that the decision to part with the dogs is a result of arguments with the administration of South Korea’s current president, Yoon Suk-yeol, over who should bear the animals’ living costs. “The presidential office seems to be negative towards entrusting the management of the Pungsan dogs to former president Moon,” said the latter’s office in a statement. “Ending [the arrangement] is regretful, given that they are companion animals that he has grown attached to.” In this diplomatic matter, it might have been wiser to let sleeping dogs lie.

Image: Getty Images

Retail / Japan

Green grocers

Japan’s biggest convenience-store companies – Lawson, Familymart and Seven & I Holdings – operate about 60,000 shops in total. The three chains are now working together to help the country reach its targets of reducing carbon emissions by 46 per cent by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The conbini giants have already set their outlets ambitious carbon-reduction goals; upgraded refrigerators, energy-efficient air conditioners and LED lighting are all part of the plan.

Seven & I now has 400 shops that are entirely powered by renewable energy – a tenfold increase in the space of just a year. In Cop27’s Japan pavilion, there’s plenty of technology that promises to significantly reduce and recycle carbon emissions. With the crisis in Ukraine still unresolved, saving energy will be crucial this winter. According to one estimate, if everyone in Japan reduced their energy consumption by 1 per cent, the electricity saved would allow 15,000 supermarkets to run for a day.

Image: Alamy

Urbanism / Switzerland

On a roll

Ensuring that a town serves both its youngest and oldest residents is a challenging task but a small municipality in the Swiss canton of Ticino has come up with a playful, experimental solution. The village of Monte, which is home to about 100 permanent residents, was granted CHF500,000 (€505,000) to update its architectural features. To help the elderly get around more easily, handrails have been installed along steep streets.

These rails are hollow in the middle, so children can roll marbles inside. “They go through the whole village, creating an extended playground,” explains Rina Rolli, the project’s architect. Responding to a recent study that found that the elderly were increasingly homebound, the village also added a bench to its main square to serve as a communal meeting point. Hopefully, the scheme will prove that small changes can make a big difference in other mountain villages too.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Tall Stories 332: Jaipur, India

Geetanjali Krishna investigates how India’s Pink City got its name and what effect the rosy hue has on residents today.

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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