Monday 10 April 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 10/4/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / René Pfister

Words of change

As we get nearer to another election cycle and look back at a historic week in US politics, a convenient explanation for Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 has taken hold among the American left. It goes like this: November 2016 expressed the last gasp of white Christian and patriarchal America, which is desperately resisting its loss of power in an increasingly diverse country.

The problem with this explanation is that it has very little to do with reality. According to analysis by the Pew Research Center, 28 per cent of all Hispanic Americans voted for Trump in 2016; four years later that figure was 38 per cent. The Republicans also made slight gains among black voters. What gave Joe Biden victory in 2020, primarily, was the change of heart among white men with college degrees. Why is this? Well, rather than winning elections, identity politics harms the political centre and the left. Trump had such success in the US – and could again – because the Democrats have lost their appeal among the working class.

Biden is among the few in his party who understand this: his most recent State of the Union address focused on social issues, such as affordable healthcare. But some Democrats seem more concerned with debating nomenclature. High-profile party members such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez no longer call Hispanic Americans “Latinos” but “Latinx”. A Pew Research Center survey shows that only 3 per cent of Hispanic Americans use the term. Words and acronyms such as “Bipoc” (black, indigenous and other people of colour) are meant to be inclusive but are also a marker of distinction, driving a cleaver through sections of the electorate that the Democrats claim to want to unite.

No one doubts that there is a need for a robust commitment to equality. But if politics unthinkingly submits to the dogmas of the transgender movement or the catechism of anti-racism, many people will feel bullied and turn to parties whose business model is shamelessness. The result will then not be open debate but parallel worlds that no longer communicate with each other.

René Pfister is Washington correspondent for ‘Der Spiegel’. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: abmk/Unbroken

Society / Ukraine

Helping hand

Lviv is gearing up for a key new opening tomorrow. Since the start of hostilities, the western Ukrainian city has become a humanitarian hub for those fleeing the war and is now home to one of the largest populations of internally displaced people in the country – which is where the Unbroken National Rehabilitation Center’s new building (pictured) comes in. The facility boasts seven floors dedicated to rehabilitation – both physical and psychological – and there are also apartments and a shop to help people back into civilian life. The foundation hopes to treat 10,000 Ukrainians a year.

Unbroken has been a passion project for Lviv mayor Andriy Sadovyi, who’s spent much of the past year fundraising. “I expect that after the war around 100,000 Ukrainians will need new prosthetics and million more will need other types of rehabilitation – social, physical and more,” he tells The Monocle Minute. “That’s where Unbroken comes in.”

Image: Getty Images

Environment / USA

Water world

In California’s Orange County, the long-running drought is finally over. Up in the Sierra Nevada, the Mammoth Mountain ski resort has had so much snow that it plans to keep slopes open until July. Tulare Lake in the Central Valley, which ran dry a century ago, has been reborn (and caused extensive flooding in the process).

In short, the historic volume of rain that has fallen on California in recent months – after three of the driest years in the Golden State’s history – has left a big question: what to do with it all? State authorities are scrambling to be ready for the abundant snow melt in coming months, with a plan to divert it back into ground aquifers. There’s also a $307m (€282m) plan to upgrade ageing dams, old canals and faulty pipes. As one might expect, after such a surprise deluge, no one wants to be caught short again.

Image: Carla Ulrich

Agriculture / Germany

Small farms, big ideas

Bigger isn’t always better, especially when it comes to industrial farming, which can be unsustainable, complicated and bad for the environment. One city-focused alternative is Berlin-based Tiny Farms, founded by sustainability consultant Jacob Fels and agricultural policy adviser Tobias Leiber. Today their network of organic plots in the Brandenburg region that surrounds Berlin have four 5,000 sq m farms within a short drive of the city, three growing vegetables and one growing flowers.

“Our idea is to connect them to become one big farm in terms of doing all the administration, accounting and certification,” Fels tells Monocle. He thinks that the smallholdings will tempt younger workers who may be put off by the gruelling demands of conventional farming and will yield fresh products with shorter supply chains. Tiny Farms already counts organic supermarket LPG among its clientele. “Our plan is to have 1,000 Tiny Farms throughout Germany and beyond by 2030.” Even big changes start small.

For more fresh ideas and businesses with growth potential, pick up a copy of the April issue of Monocle magazine, which is out now.

Image: Tetsuya Ito

Manufacturing / Japan

Making, a mark

The quality of Japanese manufacturing is renowned around the world but the country’s fashion brands and factories are still struggling to tell their stories overseas. There are now plans afoot to promote the idea that Japanese makers are keen to collaborate abroad. “Factories have amazing skills but traditionally they don’t come out and promote themselves,” Hisayoshi Sakurai, senior manager at Japan Apparel Fashion Industry Council (JAFIC), tells Monocle. It’s why the body launched the “J-Quality” initiative.

The quality-assurance badge on Japanese-manufactured products involved taking representatives from 11 small and medium-sized Japanese fashion factories to meet the industry in Italy earlier this year. JAFIC is also now sending Japanese workers to Italy to bring new skills back home. “We have to think about what’s next,” says Nakata of the creative exchange. “I wanted them to have a five- to 10-year vision for the future.” The move towards buying less but better-quality clothing could well benefit this “Made in Japan” push.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Urbanist

Can Vivot, Palma

Andrew Tuck peers inside one of Palma’s many shuttered courtyards to reveal a breathtaking property ordinarily concealed from public view. 

Monocle Films / Greece

Athens: urban inspiration

Athenians have a knack for injecting pockets of greenery and a sense of innovation into their ancient city. Their urban interventions are aimed at cooling down this dense metropolis and safeguarding its sacred sights as much as the neighbourhood life. We climb its seven hills to get a fresh perspective on the city’s charms.


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