The whole country is hating on Novak Djokovic right now because he had the courage to do what most of us did not – stand up for himself.
Novak’s principled stance has only served to highlight the fact that millions of Australians have allowed themselves to be abused for the past two years. And no one wants to admit that.
It is far easier to demonise a Serbian millionaire who took a stand than it is to agree that we have been bullied into submission by politicians and health bureaucrats.
How else to explain the unhinged reaction to the world Number One tennis player being allowed to defend his Australian Open title? And how else to understand the glee with which his subsequent visa rejection was greeted?
When news broke earlier this week that Novak was going to be allowed to play in Australia, a Victorian journalist tweeted: ‘If we still have crowds at the Australian Open by the time it starts, it’s the duty of every Australian to boo Novak relentlessly between sets. Shit is absolutely f***ed.’
Urging 14,000 people under the Rod Laver Arena roof to exhale in unison to protest an airborne virus is the kind of dumb you can only be when you’re smack bang in the middle of a rabid mob.
Not to be outdone, a prominent Melbourne journalist tweeted that the Australian Open was ‘a tournament fans were scared to come to in the first place and won’t want to attend now’.
Really? People were scared that the medically cleared Grand Slam winner might walk onto a fenced-off court, cough during a rally, and infect everyone in the stadium with the plague? Get a grip. He’s a tennis player, not the Grim Reaper.
No one seriously believes Novak is a health risk. And no one seriously believes that kicking him out of the country is protecting Australians.
Australia recorded more than 60,000 Covid cases in the past 24 hours. It’s not like Novak – someone who is perfectly healthy and who has natural immunity from having beaten the virus earlier – was going to ruin Melbourne’s (mythical) Covid-Zero utopia.
Novak’s crime was to have insisted that a person’s medical information should be private – something we all believed as recently as 2018.
He then successfully argued his case before an independent panel of six doctors as well as the Victorian Health Department. As a result, he was cleared to ply his trade as a free man, with a clean bill of health.
You see the problem here, don’t you? Novak kept his medical history private while we all agreed to flash our medical history to a stranger in exchange for the right to enter Kmart.
Novak fought for and won the right to earn a living on his own terms while we all consented to making a series of unending injections a condition of being able to earn a livelihood.
Novak probably wouldn’t have agreed to a 9pm curfew. He probably wouldn’t have forbidden his children from visiting playgrounds. And he probably wouldn’t have missed out on precious time with family because an unelected, unrepresentative bureaucrat said ‘science’. Novak probably would have stood up to all that nonsense. And how we hate him for it!
We have to hate him… If Novak is not the devil, then we are all fools – fools for acquiescing to increasingly nonsensical demands and fools for agreeing to endlessly shifting Covid goal posts.
Novak’s Australian Open entry did not mean that we had all been played by politicians. It was Novak who was the problem – not the tyrannical rules to which we so meekly submitted. Rules that made us so angry because Novak refused to be enslaved beside us. It wasn’t fair. Why should Novak resist when we had not?
He should be booed. He should be boycotted. He should get sick with Covid!
At least, that’s what some people seriously suggested, whilst claiming they were concerned about ‘public health’, of course.
On and on it went. Vitriol heaped upon disdain, piled upon contempt.
The Project’s Peter Helliar tweeted: ‘Margaret Court relieved she won’t be the most unpopular person at Rod Laver Arena this year.’
Leaving aside the fact that using the story of Novak’s medical exemption as an excuse to kick a 79-year-old woman did Helliar no favours, how do we explain Helliar’s assertion that Novak – who has harmed no one and who has broken no law – is suddenly the most reviled person in the country?
‘Rules are rules,’ Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted, when announcing to the baying Twitter mob that Novak’s visa had been cancelled.
Most of us just thought it was good of the Prime Minister to finally turn up for something… But I digress.
‘Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from Covid, we are continuing to be vigilant,’ he said.
Vigilant in what? Protecting a Covid-ravaged populace from a healthy man with natural immunity?
One suspects it might have more to do with the fact there is an election coming up and it suits to have an unpopular foreigner upon whom to focus community anger.
Novak’s real crime was to have stood up for himself and, in so doing, exposed our cowardice.
Don’t think of Novak as a tennis player who got special privileges. He did not.
And don’t think of Novak as a selfish athlete who is disrespecting Australia. He is not.
Think of Novak as a mirror in whom we saw an unflattering reflection of ourselves. Our first response was to smash the mirror. Then we cheered that the mirror was to be marched onto a plane and sent back to where it had come from.
But there is no escaping what we have seen of ourselves – or the bad luck that’s sure to come with breaking that mirror.
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