Tall poppy syndrome. It is a very Australian habit. Those who elevate themselves to a level of prestige, or privilege not deemed fair become outcasts and pariahs. Our most recent example, Novak Djokovic.
We have finished Christmas. Lent and Easter is just a few weeks away. You will see hot cross buns and easter eggs soon. Probably now by the time this article gets released. Easter is big with outcast symbolism. Though a different word is used.
Scapegoat. We read it in Leviticus 16:1-34. The sins of the people of Israel are ceremonially put on a goat. That goat is released to an uncertain fate, Leviticus 16:10. To be clear there are two goats. One is sacrificed to the Lord, the other is set free into the wilderness. The choice is made by casting lots.
Wanted, A Better Scapegoat.
There have been a lot of scapegoats in the previous year 2021. In Victoria the scapegoats ranged from the unions, the Premier Dan Andrews, the media, the internet, the un-vaccinated. None were that brilliant as these were people who were not true outsiders to the community as whole.
None were so outside the main community that such a label would work in the long run. Either individuals were too powerful, or there were too many and too familiar. We all had family, work colleagues and friends who were on the other side of the argument.
A true scapegoat is at best an individual. One who has crossed a cultural taboo. In the case of Novak Djokovic he broke the egalitarian belief that Australia has hard wired into it. Fair go mate. We try our best in this country to not have exemptions based on power, popularity and fame.
All the major print media in Australia was going off at Djokovic’s reason for a medical exemption. It was flimsy but who says others have not gotten in on worse. Difference being Djokovic had been rather public about his case. The narrative had been circling around for a few months.
Novak and the Political Arena.
Melbourne, the so called most lockdowned city in world, was already attuned to the many sad stories of those not being able to attend funerals, weddings and births. For Djokovic to not get some flack for this would have been impossible. What really struck Djokovic was that he became a higher sport, a political football.
Pilate-like the machinations and manoeuvrings swung into place after Djokovic landed at Tullamarine Airport, Melbourne. This is one episode of Australian Border Force I want to see. Border Force is a reality television series where those who bring contraband and illegal goods into Australia get caught.
Djokovic tried to bring himself. An unvaccinated individual who thought that it was his right to attend a tennis tournament he won the previous year. Which it normally is. But not now it is not. He had been warned, more than once.
Leaving It On the Field.
The arrogance was what the newspapers were inflamed about. You can be arrogant in the right way and Australians will love you. In the game, in the fight, out there in the sturm and drang of battle. Out on the field you can be nasty piece of work but once you cross the line you have to leave that behind.
White line fever, we call it. Cross the line and the game is on. The line between arrogance good and arrogance bad is that thin. It is also a cultural line. One that exists in different ways across the world. Other nations may baulk at the Australian decision. Having Djokovic playing is a certain drawcard. But when a cultural taboo is crossed, there is little to do but apologise and claim ignorance.
Djokovic does not strike me as the type to offer up apologies. Sports people of his ilk are often extreme risk takers. The problem these people have is when the risk fails to fall in their favour. Often it causes injury, illness or death. This risk could lead to Djokovic earning a three year ban from entering Australia.
Novak the Goat
Like the scapegoat Djokovic is in the bureaucratic wilderness outside the borders of Australia. What strikes me is that perhaps, we, as a nation, need this. We need to put the ills and woes of the past two years on something else other than ourselves. Release the burden of our fear and anger onto something else.
Do I think Djokovic deserves this. Not totally. He has attempted to flaunt rules that have bound many of us. Kept us at home while loved ones were in need. Did Novak read the room. No he did not. Does Novak understand the cultural taboo he crossed? Probably not.
Will Australian audiences boo him if he plays. Maybe. But as I said earlier you can be arrogant when you cross the white line and we will love you all over again. We are just that fickle. Though there will be many who will never forget. Not forgetting is also an Australian creed.
Phillip Hall has been too long in Melbourne to see AFL in the same light as those back in Fremantle. East Fremantle born and bred, he would love to see the Dockers back in the eight. But would settle for just beating West Coast twice a year.