Monday, April 15, 2024
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Land of the free? Tell that to Djokovic!


IT WAS not really a surprise, but some of us had hoped that genuine science and rational thinking might prevail, to save us from embarrassment if nothing else. The 2022 Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic, the man who brought such danger and trepidation to the citizens of London this summer, has been denied entry to the self-proclaimed Land of the Free.

You might have expected that a country with a national anthem containing those words would behave differently from Australia, where mass hysteria has fuelled some of the most draconian lockdowns during the past two and a half years. The debacle surrounding the refusal to allow Djokovic to play in the Australian Open must have infuriated those who cling on to the traditional virtues of a freedom-loving people.

It’s all the more incredible given that Australia used to be a land famed for its tough, resilient and courageous people. My Glaswegian grandfather fought alongside the Aussies at Gallipoli in the First World War; after that experience I think he realised, maybe for the first time, that real hard men also existed outside Glasgow! But the cowardly bureaucrats, politicians and their technocratic betters have so thoroughly trashed the reputation of Australia as a mentally tough, grounded and solid place that it’s hard to see a way back.

But surely the country proudly built on immigrants, whose biggest city is home to the Statue of Liberty, this place, more than France, the UK, or even Australia, would not refuse entry to one of the greatest athletes in the world because he has exercised his right to bodily autonomy?

Those who support the decision to bar Djokovic from America to take part in the US Open, which starts today, have made a huge mistake tactically in my view. Morally and ethically their position cannot be defended in any democratic country where citizens have the right to decide what medical interventions they will be subject to. Informed consent in such states has always meant that the individual has the power to refuse some treatment, and not be subject to coercion or pressured into changing their minds. This morally sound perspective applies to all medical and psychological interventions. It is enshrined in the Nuremberg code, which emerged in response to the evils committed by the German Nazi regime in the name of science.   

From a more tactical point of view, the US authorities and elites, as always throughout history, have seriously overplayed their hand. People know in their hearts, if not fully in their minds, that this action taken by the authorities is irrational, illogical and vindictive. All the talk about the danger of Djokovic as some kind of role model for anti-vax movements is patronising and insulting. It also reveals an incredible level of arrogance by the state and their experts in assuming that large sections of society are incapable of thinking issues through and making their own decisions without the guidance of a so-called influencer or celebrity.

So the Djokovic ban is not about public health, science or rationality, but is intended to show what will happen if you dare to question the dominant narrative. The lesson they want us to take on board is that dissent and critical thinking will not be allowed whatever your status or power. If the arguably greatest tennis player of all time can be treated in this way, lesser mortals need to watch out.

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Dr Mark Stephen Nesti
Dr Mark Stephen Nesti
Dr Mark Stephen Nesti, PhD, is a chartered psychologist and consultant sport psychologist.

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