Monocle #49


The world’s only superpower is public opinion. If the fate of a nation depends on its food then the future is bright for Peru. The capital needs to abandon all traces of English self-deprecation and reticence and get promoting its unique identity to the global willing audience. If China is the muscle of twenty-first century power, then Oz is its brain and bone. India is associated with IT. India is associated with Bollywood. Then you have iconic figures such as Gandhi. It’s not a case of blue jeans versus the Red Army any longer but the power of American culture is still second to none. China has great artists but locks them up. With their pretty Bond-girls, Millennium novels, skinny jeans, indie rock bands, and innovative technological solutions, Swedes have long stood for beauty, mystery, health and modernity. If Freud were alive today, he might help his nation find itself. The Australian way of life — boundless pristine nature, sun-kissed bodies lunging sportily on its beaches, and a world-class foodie culture — seems to sell itself. Some of Norway’s soft power is so soft it’s actually covert. There is an overwhelming sense of enthusiasm outpacing competence. We believe the debate of ideas is the oldest activity that promotes peace and dialogue between people. Turkey on TV is a glamorous, modern, progressive, naughty country. Soft power can come from the creation of iconic cars or the export of populist soap operas that gain tens of millions of viewers across Eastern Europe and the Middle East or the value of the perfect pizza or an exquisite espresso. Once tinged with terror and fascism, Spain is sunny and cool again. It’s all about the past and very little about the future. Like Roger Federer’s backhand of late, Switzerland has been misfiring on the soft power front. The country’s art galleries feel a little tired, too. The great intellectuals were French. You might like the twinkle but the twinkle is not what you would be seeing were it not for the fact it originated hundreds of millions of light years away. Huntsville is known as Rocket City and rocket engines are a cornerstone of the city’s economy and a crucial part of its future. France is let down by its airlines and airports. If in doubt, watch one of Haifa Wehbe’s steamy performances: the explosive diva might be offering an erotic dream, but it is also a dream for more freedom. There is a disconnect between the talent in the UK and those who commission it. Decent airports, famous food, and the world’s best — and classiest — football team. Time to dispatch more peacekeepers to hot zones. What Canada loses on global leadership it makes up for with business brands and female singer-songwriters. Digestifs are taken to the helipad halfway to the jetty, where you lie under rugs and spot shooting stars. Come sunset it’s back to the water for prosecco and prawns on toast before shedding clothes and taking a final dunk at dusk in the Baltic. When it’s time to return, within minutes of setting foot on the mainland, the island experience seems like a dream, distant and intangible; you’re left with only a rejuvenated mind and a pinecone in your pocket to remind you that it really does exist. There is something to be said for being, well, boring.