Writing Never Mind The Jollop was an attempt to exorcise my pandemic frustrations. It was working. Until the deportation of Novak Djokovic from Australia sucked me back in and had me questioning my affection for the country I used to call home.
My biggest beef with the pandemic response is the erosion of civil liberties. The Djokovic case put that back in the spotlight. I empathise with Novak, his view that freedom of choice and bodily autonomy is worth standing up for seems sensible and uncontroversial, especially if your healthy body is fundamental to your livelihood and tennis aspirations. It’s just not logical for an elite sportsman to outsource his health choices to companies that profit from sickness.
What happened to the laidback Aussie spirit? Over the last couple of years, the most liveable city became the most locked down. And stories of a police state have frequented my social media feeds. Was Crocodile Dundee and those Fosters adverts just a smokescreen for latent authoritarianism?
The second court hearing was a real eye-opener. The Australian government were not worried about Djokovic spreading a virus. They worried about him spreading an idea. The idea that those at low risk from the disease might take responsibility for their own health and decline the drugs on offer. But without both sides of the story, how can informed consent be given?
It’s a sad indictment. Not because of what it says about politicians, but for what it says about the average Australian. With the federal election months away, ministerial decisions are made to gain popularity with voters. Overturning the first court ruling to delegitimise a counter-narrative feels undemocratic and paternalistic. How can that be a vote winner? Are we at the stage where Australians need foreign tennis players punished to validate their sacrifices, excuse their gullibility, or show their compliance was not in vain? If so, how can I be part of a society that censors free thought?
“The public wants what the public gets, but I don’t get what this society wants.”– Paul Weller
I pay attention to all this because between 2014-19, I spent a citizenship-obtaining five and half years in Melbourne, and although I now live a nomadic lifestyle overseas, I might like to return one day. This year, I will be asked to cast my first Australian vote. Well, ‘asked’ might be the wrong word – voting is another thing you don’t get much choice about down under. It’s compulsory for all citizens, wherever they happen to be in the world and is backed up with fines.
I’m not against voting. I just prefer to do it with my wallet and my feet rather than my ballot. To me, politics is like WWF wrestling in suits. Opposing parties simulate conflict to distract the public from what’s really going on. The media are in on the collaboration and play the role of choreographer. And all three dance to the tune of their corporate interests.
Sport is politics, and politics is sport. And the Australian Open is now closed to the open-minded. With dignity and courage, the world No.1 gave my fellow citizens a wake-up call and a reminder of what being free looks like. If we can’t listen, discuss and tolerate alternative viewpoints, how can we say we have a free country?
Freedom in Australia (and many other places) is now subject to participation in a pharmaceutical loyalty scheme. Get injected enough times with a drug of the government’s choice, and a place in society is yours. That is not freedom. It’s permission for the obedient, a worrying reality and ironic that it took a tennis champion to expose this racket.