Wednesday 8 December 2021 – The Monocle Minute – Monocle

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December 2021/January 2022
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Opinion / Christopher Cermak
As journalists we typically get caught up in the politics – the legacy, the punditry, the need to make grand statements about “what it all means”. But I doubt that I’m the only reporter reflecting on a more personal level today; Angela Merkel has been in power for all of my professional career (and nearly all of my adult life). A few of my own lasting highlights:
Enter, stage right
18 September 2005
In a televised debate on the night of the election, Merkel’s irate predecessor Gerhard Schröder seems convinced, despite his party’s narrow loss, that he should remain chancellor. Merkel appears unflappable – and takes his place two months later.
Exit nuclear, stage left
14 March 2011
Merkel announces a moratorium on nuclear energy in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. It’s an uncharacteristically impulsive decision, ushering in an “energy transition” that remains complicated for Germany to this day; nuclear power, after all, doesn’t emit greenhouse gases.
Clash of the titans, part one
12 July 2015
Merkel holds firm during a marathon overnight summit session with far-left Greek leader Alexis Tsipras, following Greece’s vote to reject the terms of an EU bailout package but not to leave the euro. Some foreign watchers consider this “bullying” and the darkest Merkel era – but would anyone else prevent the euro’s break-up?
‘Wir schaffen das’
31 August 2015
Her “we can do this” comment welcoming refugees spreads around the world. What makes it all-the-more notable is how off-the-cuff it is: Merkel rarely seeks the limelight intentionally but has an uncanny ability to draw attention in key moments.
Clash of the titans, part two
9 June 2018
At a G7 summit in Canada, the picture that tells a thousand words (pictured). Merkel’s commitment to democracy at a time of populist upheaval – and her legendary eye-rolls – will not be forgotten.
How will Angela Merkel shape German politics going forward? For one thing, her successor Olaf Scholz shares many of her characteristics and, starting today, leads a government with an equal number of women and men. A fitting legacy for the first female chancellor in Germany’s history.
Justice / USA
When a black 14-year-old boy called Emmett Till (pictured) was lynched in 1955, the two white men from Mississippi who later confessed to his murder had little expectation of punishment: at their trial, the all-white jury almost reflexively acquitted them. This week the book on this historic incident was closed for good: an investigation into the case that was reopened in 2017 ended with no new charges. Ever since the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act was enacted in 2007 to seek justice for historic victims of racially motivated violence, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has investigated more than 100 such “cold cases” but secured just one conviction. The poor record, says the DOJ, is down to difficulties in securing new evidence decades after the crimes and, crucially, the “lack of a federal anti-lynching law” at the time they were committed. As one act inspired by Till struggles to yield results, US politicians should get behind another: the Emmett Till Antilynching Act has now spent 11 months in limbo; it deserves to become law.

Hong Kong has a way of making things happen, even during a global crisis. Serial entrepreneurs are quick to spot a gap and have the capital and connections at their fingertips to turn it into reality. With a new idea on every street corner, the urge to start something can be infectious: “I wouldn’t have set up my own business in any other city,” says Arnault Castel, while looking back at his arrival in Hong Kong and his decision to set up retailer Kapok 15 years ago. “Everyone was doing it and making it look so easy.”
Economy / Finland
Economic indicators come in many guises: the number of active cranes on a city’s skyline; sales of men’s underwear, as posited by former Fed chair Alan Greenspan; or sales of lipstick, which Leonard Lauder once claimed increase when things head south, because women will want to spend on small luxuries. Now we have a new one: Kone, the leading Finnish manufacturer of lifts, analysed data from its equipment operating in offices, universities, hotels and apartment blocks in 10 European cities.
A London lift averaged 13,000 “starts” before the pandemic; in April 2020 that plummeted (never a word you want to associate with lifts) to 2,500, then crept back up to 9,200 in November. But across Europe, Kone has noticed that the “going down” trend is returning: in Amsterdam, the average lift started 9,000 times in October and 7,900 in November. Still, Kone insists that continuing urbanisation means that the only way is up for the trade: look for more, not fewer, elevating experiences in future.
Transport / UAE
The UAE has announced plans to transform the country’s freight and passenger rail networks and unveiled a €12bn investment this week, as part of Expo 2020 Dubai. The UAE Railways Programme is part of a wider strategy to boost economic growth and tourism. It builds on the Etihad Rail network (pictured), which was launched in 2009 to bring the Emirates closer together. The plans include the construction of high-speed rail links to connect 11 UAE cities, including a 50-minute Abu Dhabi-to-Dubai service. Prime minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said that the railway network would promote further economic integration and co-operation between the Emirates, while supporting the UAE’s efforts to cut carbon emissions by 70 to 80 per cent over the next 50 years. As well as improving freight and high-speed rail, the three-pronged strategy includes improvements to inner-city public transit. If successful, perhaps the plans will convince people across the UAE to jettison their cars and jump on board.
Fashion / France
Chanel’s presentation of its Métiers d’art collection yesterday (pictured) saw the French fashion powerhouse open the doors to its new facility, Le 19M, in which a number of artisans work with storied, specialist manufacturing techniques. The sprawling building, which is set to formally open next year, was designed by French architect Rudy Ricciotti and is a calmly shaped, concrete-laden creation where high windows bathe workers in natural light. The talent here includes privately run milliners, embroiderers and goldsmiths, who will be called upon to contribute to Chanel’s collections. Another case in point is the workshop of French pleating specialist Lognon, where unique skills that can’t be learned anywhere else in the world are being practised everyday by a charismatic cast of young talent keen to pursue careers in fashion. All in all, the new space is a significant investment from Chanel in keeping craft and specialist fashion design alive and well in Paris.
M24 / Tall Stories
Madeleine Pollard tells the tale of one of Berlin’s most storied open spaces, which wears its aviation history on its sleeve.
Monocle Films / Global
For the release of our book about Japan, we produced a film series that dives into the intriguing ecosystem that has preserved Japanese traditional skills over centuries. Meet the people who are future-proofing the age-old know-how.
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