Is Novak Djokovic the new Antonio Gramsci?

Be the Outsider — embrace virtue.

Dr. Adam Hart
8 min readJan 16, 2022

“One of the most dangerous aspects of the Djokovic matter is the preparedness of the federal government to deem someone to be a risk to public order simply on the basis of what it perceives that person’s views might be,” Mr Barns said.

“This is Orwellian and it is deeply troubling in a society [Australia] supposedly committed to freedom of speech and freedom of thought.”

‘This is Orwellian’: Djokovic defence emerges ahead of court hearing, The Age, Jan 15 2022

Cranberries singing ‘Zombie’
© Cranberries — Zombie © YouTube

Democracy today is instead neo-aristocratic

Democracy is a classically defined structure where power is said to rest in the hands of the people (demos) with its origins in a city-state model. This contrasts to aristocracy, oligarchy, hegemony and other alternative methods of governmental power-relations.

‘Direct democracy’, where no intermediaries are permitted between the individual and decisions has had some expression but is said to be excluded due to the tyranny of majority rule, where minorities are excluded due to some kind of Bentham-like social rationalistic behaviour. Yet, it is well known how legislative representatives are lobbied for outcomes to achieve the similar bad outcomes. And this is coupled with a general a priori assumption by said politicians that people in general are not qualified to make decisions, or be trustworthy without policing and over government with restrictive practices.

Democracy in general today actually appears more like an aristocracy:

“late 15th century: from Old French aristocratie, from Greek aristokratia, from aristos ‘best’ + -kratia ‘power’. The term originally denoted the government of a state by its best citizens, later by the rich and well born, hence the sense ‘nobility’, regardless of the form of government (mid 17th century).”

There’s a kind of fake voting procedure in countries that purport to be democracies, where the neo-aristocracy can potentially loose power, but are held to account by checks and balances of their own design.

The illusion of freedom

“When tens of thousands were lining up for income support in the early phase of the pandemic, the government had “serious concerns” about outbreaks of civil unrest, he says.

“You’re facing the abyss … we knew that we had to put a massive confidence shot into the Australian economy. And if those payments didn’t turn up in people’s bank accounts, who knew what was going to happen?” he says.”

Nothing off limits: Scott Morrison on his bruising years as Prime Minister, The Age Jan 15, 2022

Human beings share some traits in common, prime amongst them being fear of the unknown and the odd behaviour that engenders.

Governing such a fear requires both the stick and the carrot. Above we see the carrot (payments), and globally we have seen the stick (water canons).

Primarily public order is a measurement of compliant behaviour. Fear of unpredictable behaviour is corrosive to holding power. Thus both reward and punishment are meted out in equal measure like the aristocracy of old. Who determines what compliant behaviour is the neo-aristocratic politicians who are only accountable once every 4 years or so.

None of this is new. Orwell referenced above thought what he did in 1948. The existentialist and anti-fascist reform agenda emerged in the 1930s or maybe earlier. All of this control society we see today can be easily situated in a longitudinal history that has been in play probably for most of human history.

What is a primary technique of power is the illusion of freedom. If a person has the illusion they are free to make choices, then they will be passive. The truth is that our freedoms are seriously curtailed because we are not free to organise our lives and beliefs how we so choose.

Sure, we’re free to consume stuff like online shopping and video on demand; and if we can overcome inter-generational wealth transfer, buy some land if its not anywhere already taken. We’re free to work and pay taxes, free to die and have our estate taxed. And free to over consume to give us the western diseases of debt, obesity, alcoholism, cancer, auto-immune and heart disease et al.

BUT, we are not really free to think outside of the strictly controlled and curated narrative of the neo-aristocracy, nor have we ever been. And when we protest our lot the water canons, the public law and order come out, programmed like Zombies themselves by the ‘tyranny of the majority’ to believe the public is the enemy of public law and order; a law and order defined not by the public but by the neo-aristocracy, not by us, who have been educated to not have the ability to think freely, which has been programmed out of us, as compliance requires passivity.

All of which has been well documented since the 1970s at least, and it’s just there. Begging the question how to shift this ugly fixture of so called modernity?

Is Novak Djokovic the new Antonio Gramsci?

For the neo-aristocracy to be such, they need compliant behaviour, non-compliance is a threat to their exercise of power. This reaction to the world’s top #1 tennis player is indeed superficially extreme. But it also hides another equally disturbing fascist trend.

Antonio Gramsci’s analysis of the power of cultural hegemony and resistance to the Italian Fascist Party earnt him 20 years imprisonment and an early death due to atrocious conditions. Novak’s detention and court hearing for possibly not believing in the vaccination regimes espoused by government’s worldwide can instead be viewed through an ‘anti-democratic-COVID-power-lens’.

Seen through the lens of anti-democracy, COVID is not a pandemic, it is an excuse , it is the fear of the unknown taken expression in an unseen virulent killer. And the reasonable scientific evidence that vaccination is our best defense is quashed by humanity’s evolutionary Achilles heel, fear.

This is a lens that punishes non-compliance with dictates in general and freedom of action, fuelled by the fear of governments to the populace’s fear of the unknown, aka dying from COVID19.

It’s interesting to reflect that the people who object to vaccination have taken this opportunity to resist the power that is put upon them, and not resist something more insidious like birth to grave taxation. Taxation takes away the most fundamental resource you have a fixed amount of, time. If you paid less tax you have more time to be free from work or debt, for example. And taxation is taken out before you get what’s left over. Is that equitable — you could put that money to work and still meet a reasonable annual obligation?

Shall the inevitability of death and taxes now be replaced with death, vaccination and taxes?

I don’t want to get on the cart!’

The people who espouse to be politicians (or business leaders for that matter) and control others are motivated to do so through self-selection. I have argued previously they are the wrong people to be in such a role that, if we follow Plato, requires humbleness, balance, insight and candour [1]. They themselves, like any group of people, are subject to group think, and the imperative to remain in control and self-audit their vision of what is correct is their version of how they combat their own fear of loosing control.

We in the West are unexpectedly at some unique juncture when the dual institutions of religiosity and democracy are both retreating. Aided by highly effective surveillance tech, any purportedly democratic institution sees fighting for its own survival as its sovereign right, protecting itself against the randomness and not-fit-to-decide of the unwashed and non-expert public, who are not fit to govern themselves and must be passive, or else.

These environmental threats, both implicit and direct, act as a form of identity self-censorship where functions of freedom of thought die in the maternity ward before they can be born.

Alternative models of government are not possible while those in power critically judge the people they remotely govern as inept. Oh, they will say that, get involved if you wish, put yourself up for election. But we all know that is impossible, and rely on campaign budgets and the simple brutality of the process.

Governments have used an invisible, highly technical and non-understandable enemy, COVID, as another excuse to enforce compliance more broadly, like with anything and everything. Health departments as an appendage of these governments globally exercise inordinate power to isolate individuals and remove their freedom, irrespective if you are triple vaccinated or not. The Australian government’s accusation of Novak Djokovic appears as a similar accusation that allowed the Italian Fascist Party to imprison Gramsci.

Like, WTF? The politics of the neo-aristocracy sees the rest of us as compliant serfs and taxpayers, not as humans with agency.

Avoiding Damnation Alley

The internal battle should NOT be to vaccinate or not, the battle should be to decide whether to think obeisance to compliance regimes or not. No government can legislate what you think, but that doesn’t stop them trying and certainly marketing their messages using mass media, and God forbid as yet we do not have the Neuralink interface mandated so our thoughts cannot be monitored, like in the dystopia The Matrix.

Gramsci, Baudrillard, Russell and other thinkers essentially task us to not necessarily agree, to question, as best as we are all able, all of these so called policies and laws and beliefs that we are increasingly required to comply with. They ask us to be brave and virtuous enough to be judged an ‘outsider’.

Just like Meursault was convicted for the crime of being different, for not crying at his mothers funeral, a new political dynamic doesn’t just embrace difference and diversity of demographic, it embraces difference of thought and opinion. It embraces alternative models of self-government of what are good thoughts, and reject the governmental narratives of the day as spurious and self-serving.

And eventually, some such people, who are humble, balanced, virtuous, perhaps will win at the electoral game. They may be your children, or their children. But it needs to start, and not around single platform virtue ideologies like climate or gender equality, but all of it.

When was the last time governments debated decisions using virtue as a criteria? I haven’t seen it in my lifetime because the individuals there in the main do not know what virtue is in their heart. Yes, they possibly debate on equity or ideological grounds but not virtue. That which is equitable is necessary but insufficient, but that which is equitable and virtuous is both necessary and sufficient.

But if there are no people who can think and believe and do virtue, there can be no one who will enact a new virtue political dynamic from within, to avoid us driving down a dismal existential Damnation Alley.


[1] Noting, there are arguments against this approach because of the difficulty in assuring that the individuals are genuinely so. Cf. Noocracy