Imagine being as big of a flog as Novak Djokovic
Imagine being as big of a flog as Novak Djokovic
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UPDATE: The Australian government on 6 January cancelled Novak Djokovic's visa. The tennis player has since successfully challenged the decision in the courts.

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Is there a bigger flog on the international tennis circuit than Novak Djokovic? Anyone who has less of a sense of social responsibility? Maybe. But it would be very difficult to top this entitled and self-centred twerp.

We’ve known for a long time that he holds whacky views on science and medicine. It was once easy to dismiss it as harmless eccentricity. For example, in May 2020, just weeks before his notorious European COVID super-spreader tour, Djokovic used Instagram to hold forth on the surprising relationship between water and human emotions.

“I’ve seen people and I know some people that, through that energetical transformation, through the power of prayer, through the power of gratitude, they manage to turn the most toxic food or the most polluted water, into the most healing water”, he said. He wasn’t talking about Jesus. On planet Djokovic, all of us mortals are performing miracles every time we lose our temper near a drinking fountain, because “water reacts and scientists have proven that, that molecules in the water react to our emotions, to what is being said”.

I’d love to know how water reacts when you tell a flog to STFU.

In the days before the pandemic, the person most damaged by Djokovic’s aversion to medical treatment was himself. For instance, in the prime of his career he was reluctant to have surgery to fix an injured elbow. He has a career today only because he finally went under the knife in 2018. But sorting his injury only made him feel sad. “I just cried for two or three days ... after I had the surgery on my elbow. Every time I thought about what I did, I felt like I had failed myself”.

For people like Djokovic, the individual is not merely the centre of the universe, but the universe itself. To them, the individual exists only to be honed into an unstoppable force of accomplishment, both physically and mentally, without any reference to the society that made them. Hence, the medical intervention was seen as a defeat. And, as is so often the case, the tough guy turned into a sook.

This obsessive individualism is also why there’s always been a selfish streak to Djokovic’s views, and his notable lack of concern about the spread of a deadly virus to society’s most vulnerable people fits an established pattern. Take his famous victory celebrations, in which he “gives his heart” to the fans in all four corners of the stadium. (Nick Kyrgios described it as “like, so cringeworthy”.)

But it’s not just cringy. The victory ritual in fact has little to do with thanking fans. Djokovic reportedly started performing it on advice from his then spiritual guru because they believed the collective energy would give him a mental advantage over his rivals. What seems like an act of reciprocity is actually just a weird ritual where the man on the court believes that he is absorbing everyone else’s energy.

Now, despite all the promises that no-one would get special treatment, Djokovic is coming to Melbourne for the Australian Open courtesy of an official vaccine exemption.

It is a sick joke.

Not so long ago they told us that it was almost impossible to get exemptions, that someone would require a genuine medical issue, like a proven history of allergic reaction to a COVID vaccine or impending major surgery. And yet, amid the disaster being deliberately wrought on this country by the let-it-rip politicians and businesses, amid the catastrophe engulfing our hospitals, this most notorious anti-vax nutjob is just strolling on in.

The authorities have avoided commenting on their rationale, but the grounds for gaining an exemption are publicly available. Being a rich-shit anti-vaxxer is not one of them. It would be one thing for them to just shrug their shoulders and admit they let him in because he’s a million-dollar drawcard for the Australian Open, but the implication seems to be that he suddenly has some legitimate medical issue worthy of an exemption. Maybe he got badly scalded by some of the water he was energising with his words and the expert panel looked with sympathy on his application.

Either way, this is a massive “fuck you” to those of us for whom medical care is genuinely a life-or-death matter, and for all of us who are daily scrambling for tests, for boosters, or for any sign that the state might still be capable of providing public health care as the whole thing seems to fall apart.

None of us believe the much-lauded “independent panels” who granted this exemption have acted correctly, let alone fairly or in the interest of public health. People across Australia are suffering through the worst days of the pandemic this country has yet seen, but multi-millionaire anti-vaxxers get the red carpet rolled out.

With his vaccine exemption, Djokovic won’t need to quarantine and won’t be bound by any of the relatively trivial and few restrictions still in place for unvaccinated people.

Meanwhile, what do the rest of us get, despite having done the hard yards for two years, despite all the lockdowns and despite the massive vaccine uptake? We get exploding case numbers smashing records every day. We get no genuine account of how many people have contracted the virus since mid-December. We get hundreds of our loved ones sick and dying in barely functioning hospitals.

We can’t get PCR tested, and even if we do, we are lucky to get results in fewer than three days. We can’t locate RATs anywhere in the major cities, or can’t afford them if we do. We can’t get listed as a close contact unless we live with a confirmed positive case. We can’t buy N95 or P2 masks anywhere. We can’t get a booster, and can’t take time off work because we can’t prove that we’re positive. We can’t get a hospital bed, can’t get into the emergency departments, can’t guarantee an ambulance will come when we call one, can’t find a politician anywhere in the country willing to contemplate reintroducing public health measures.

And they give Djokovic a free pass? They must think we’re stupid.

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