Novak Djokovic and Boris Johnson have both featured prominently in the media in recent days. The No 1 tennis player in the world rankings and the prime minister of Britain unwillingly offered an important service by lying at the time of a pandemic. Their public disgrace struck the arrogance of power. Djokovic’s visa was revoked by the Australian immigration minister, while Johnson is swirling in revelations about a party he organized at Downing Street during a period of national mourning (following the death of Prince Philip) and strict restrictive measures imposed due to the coronavirus.
The former drowned in his own inconsistencies, as each of his claims refuted the other. The house of cards he built with documents that refuted each other has already collapsed, even if his lawyers do manage to overturn the Australian minister’s decision with appeals and the tennis player does manage to continue playing in the Australian Open on Monday. Johnson, no matter how much he apologizes in the British Parliament, remains sadly indefensible before the citizens of his country, his office, and the institutions.
The lives of those in power are becoming significantly more transparent in these harsh times. Popularity (in Djokovic’s case) is not a shield; laws apply without exception. It sounds comforting. No matter how skeptical one is of the power of the powerful, one can only feel relieved by the mechanisms that hold them to account in democracies. Along with the revelation of responsibility comes accountability and abrupt “adulthood.”
Fame’s ability to offer a denial of reality is impressive. Djokovic and Johnson behaved like spoiled children. They thought that they had been given a free pass at no cost, in return for the services they offered. They took it for granted that they could go their own way, that they had the right to escape, to “falsify” the truth, to turn their backs on the “rules of the game” that others are required to follow faithfully and consistently.
The message is twofold: The acceleration of the changes brought about by catastrophes include the swift maturity of society and the state. Taking responsibility is the only way. Otherwise you are either a Djokovic or a Johnson.