Boris, Andrew, Novak - what a week!
It’s been a bad week for three men with a strong sense of entitlement.
Boris Johnson is hanging on by his fingertips to the office of prime minister after stories have keep emerging that he and some of his colleagues in 10 Downing Street enjoyed parties – or ‘working sessions’, as he would say - in the garden there. This at a time when the rest of the country was observing the strictest lockdown, missing important family events like funerals to observe the restrictions. ‘One rule for them and one for the rest of us’ is the charge frequently made. To cap it all, one of the parties was held on the eve of the funeral of Prince Philip. Downing Street has apologized to the Queen. It really is not a good look.
Meanwhile Prince Andrew, ninth in line to the throne, has learned that he must face charges that he sexually abused an underage young woman on at least three occasions. Last night news emerged that the Queen had decided to strip him of his honorific title, ‘His Royal Highness’, before he does further damage to the Windsor brand. He also has lost several high military honours. His association with the serial abuser, Jeffrey Epstein, and his accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell, now a convicted sex trafficker, together with his very flimsy attempts to exonerate himself, leave him with very little support in this country. Reports say he has very little In Buckingham Palace either. Someone described him this week as ‘the loneliest man in Britain’.
On the other side of the world it has been a bad week for tennis star Novak Djokovic. News broke this morning that his visa for entry into Australia is being revoked for a second time. Without it he will have to leave the country and not have the opportunity to defend his Australian Open title, and by winning it have the right to claim that he is the greatest men’s tennis player in the history of the game.
All three men seem somehow to have believed that they were not subject to the constraints placed upon ordinary people. They apparently felt untouchable, invulnerable because of their position at the pinnacle of their ‘trade’. They seem like men who if challenged by an underling might respond: ‘Do you not know who I am?’
These men are used to getting their own way. Because of unprincipled political manoeuvring, because of royal privilege, because of exceptional sporting prowess. This week they have been abruptly forced to encounter obstacles to their passage through life. But can their behaviour be entirely attributed to a strong sense of entitlement with a heavy dose of macho?
It may be that because of their exceptional privilege and prowess, they have never really confronted the question of who they are apart from accidents of birth and their positions. Those surrounding them have understandably been reluctant to speak truth to these powers. Accordingly, these three have not been obliged by the cut and thrust of life to seek out who they really are at the core of their being. Djokovic is perhaps the exception here. His early experience in war-torn Sarajevo and his commitment to veganism seem to have led him to reflect somewhat on his place in the world but that must be difficult when he has for so long been the best-ever player in his world.
These three men’s personal failings are inevitably writ large. And they deserve the appropriate sanctions. Our failings are much less publicized, thankfully. But we would do well not to make their mistake, and ignore the inner voice which may speak noiselessly of complacency and perhaps occasionally of fraud.