Saturday, March 20, 2021

The Charedi Exterminator

Many of us occasionally have need for pest exterminators. Depending on which part of the world you live in, there are different pests that need exterminating. In America you might need termite or skunk exterminators. Here in Israel it's generally rodent or pigeon exterminators. But I was shocked a few years ago to see an advertisement for a "Charedi exterminator."

It might theoretically have been a political campaign advertisement by Avigdor Lieberman, but it wasn't. Instead, it was an advertisement for regular pigeon and rodent extermination - but by an exterminator who was himself charedi, and decided to advertise himself as such.

Why would someone advertise their profession by way of their religious affiliation? You'd never see an advertisement for a "secular exterminator" or a "dati-leumi exterminator." His byline brought the point home even stronger: מדביר משלנו - "An exterminator from among us!" Apparently he was appealing to people's tribal affiliation. He might not be a better or cheaper exterminator than the others, but he's one of us, so you should hire him!

Fascinating, the same type of campaign is being used by United Torah Judaism in the forthcoming elections. Apparently there are various charedi voters who have expressed disappointment in the charedi leadership. For some of them, it's because of the blatant failure of the leadership to protect its community from coronavirus, with mortality rates far exceeding the rest of Israel. (Apparently, for others, it's for precisely the opposite reason - that they did eventually concede to cooperation, instead of rejecting it entirely.) 

Be that as it may, the campaign to convince charedim to vote for UTJ is very straightforward. They don't bother arguing that they are serving Hashem's interests, or even their constituency's interests. The argument is simply this: We're charedi!

This campaign is directed at the highest levels. Rav Gershon Edelstein, when asked why people who were disappointed by the UTJ leadership during Covid should nevertheless vote for them, explained that although there may well be problems with UTJ, not voting for them is a declaration that "I am not charedi" and prevents a Kiddush Hashem.

Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein, in a post addressed to charedi voters, explains why they should not feel that tribal affiliation requires them to vote UTJ. Personally, I would say that there are two uncomfortable truths that charedim need to acknowledge. 

The first is that the real power in the charedi world is not wielded by chareidi Gedolei Torah. Rather, it is wielded rather by the people that control them, such as Yanky Kanievsky. Rav Edelstein claims that dati-leumi parties, aside from the fundamental flaw of not being charedi, don't follow the charedi Gedolim. Well, the charedi parties don't follow the Gedolim either. They simply manipulate the Gedolim to get the desired "guidance."

The second truth is that the charedi MKs are not out to either do Hashem's will or to help the long-term future of their constituents. Instead, they want to maintain their power and positions (and hefty MK paychecks) by helping the short-term interests of their constituents - even though this is diametrically opposed to their long-term interests. In other words, whereas the long term interests of not only the entire country but also the charedi community is for them to be able to get professional training and employment, the MKs instead want to get them money in order to coddle them into continuing the mass-kollel movement, and fight any attempts to change this system. If charedi voters really wanted to help their community, they would vote for Bennett, who has a plan to actually help them.

Unfortunately, very few charedi voters are going to acknowledge these truths. They're only human, after all. And for most humans, tribal affiliations trump everything.


  1. totally incidentally, in south fallsburg there is a guy called "Preacherman Plumbing" - Where the Cross is the Boss.

  2. I don't think there is anything wrong with tribalism per se - hashem mad us that way so we can look out for friends and family. It's when it gets out of hand that it's an issue.

    Many stores around the world have "shiner shabos" on the storefront which I have no issue with.

    1. The problem with tribalism in a modern state is corruption.

    2. The problem with tribalism in a modern society is corruption.

    3. I assume that "Shiner Shabbos" is a typo for "Shomer Shabbos"? Because I personally am unaware of a Chassidic sect known as the Shiners who tend to hold tischen in stores. But I admit to not knowing all subgroups in Judaism...

  3. Sholi Katz - Monsey NYMarch 21, 2021 at 2:58 AM

    The whole charedi / Chassidsh community and its leaders are geared to keeping their followers in line - do as we say. The worst thing for a Rebbe or a litvish leader is to have his followers think for themselves.
    The issue is "control" either with the stick (ex; excommunication or burn in hell), or the carrot (ex; a bracha from the head). All their efforts centers around this ideology. Can we really change it one they are indoctrinated from very young

  4. In EY where there are many smaller parties with nuanced agendas it is more apparent but in truth it’s the same everywhere. Let’s say I live in America and having a gun is the most important thing for me I will vote Republican even if in other issues I find myself democratic leaning since those issues are less important. If being charedi (or money for yeshiva, draft exemption etc) is the most important thing for a person they will likely vote that way even if they’re disappointed or not happy with other things. If Covid issues are someone’s most important thing (which may be the case for some) then you’ll have a different outcome.

  5. The posters are an echo of the Chazon Ish. Decades ago, the Chazon Ish demanded the separation of Agudas Yisrael from Poalei Agudas Yisrael, explaining that it was vital for a party representing Torah society to be uncompromisingly Torah orientated. He explained that people's attitude and conduct is directed primarily by the society they belong to. The party is thus not a mere political instrument but a symbol and implementer of society's arrow.

  6. Voting for a Charedi party is in essence voting to minimise state sanctioned secularity wherever possible. Yanky Kanievski's string-pulling is infuriating, yet it's always over matters that are of secondary importance.

    Yes, there are other issues that Charedim find important, but if busses on Shabbat is a no-go to a Charedi voter, then voting for a Charedi party becomes the only option.

    Talking about tribal affiliations, its funny that you single out Charedim when for most of the country the election is more about about yes-Bibi no-Bibi and less about policy.

    1. Let's be honest here, the charedi parties care not a whit about halakhic issues except as a way to stir up their base and maybe win some dati leumi voters.

    2. @Ruvi

      It's not for me to define what should be the thinking behind someone's choice of who to vote for. Feel free to vote on whatever issue is the most important for you.

      Having said that..

      I find it very telling that your stance on voting for the government is not about who will run the country best for all it's citizens.

      Surely that should be every voter's yardstick for deciding who to vote for. If you pick a leader who will only serve one sectors interests then you are forgetting that the country is for all of us. If you don't care about the needs of non-observant voters because you think everyone should follow halacha, then you might be right religiously (maybe), but as a citizen you fail dismally.
      Your first sentence makes it clear that you want a Torah observant State. But it isn't and to act as if it were is awfully selfish.

      Minimally, the governments job is to collect and distribute taxes so as to meet the needs of all citizens. Beyond that, it's not at all clear that the job of the government is to enforce religion. You might want it to. But you are now putting your needs above the needs of the society as a whole.

      We can argue if politics is the right way to create a more religious society. Obviously I think it's a really bad way to achieve that end.
      But before that - can we agree that we want what's best for all citizens here? Or are you OK with making life un-liveable here for those who don't' share your religious stance?

      (And I agree very much with your last sentence.)

    3. @fozzibear

      Liberalism is, on one hand, the regime without faith, the regime that hands
      over everything, even the essentials of the country's destiny, to free discussion. For Liberalism, nothing is absolutely true or false. The truth is, in each case, what the greater number of votes say. Thus, it does not matter to Liberalism if a people agrees upon suicide, provided that the proposed suicide is carried out in accordance with electoral practice.

      . . . And since for the functioning of electoral practice the existence of factions must be encouraged and strife between them must be stimulated, the Liberal system is the system of permanent disunion, permanent want of popular faith in any profound
      community of destiny.

      Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera.

      This is the essence of democracy, which brings about a destruction of a nation. A fascist dictatorship is the only solution אם חפצים חיים אנחנו.

    4. Really have no interest in debating someone who supports fascism. certainly not a jew who seems to have forgotten the damage fascism can do.

      I will say this though: Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera is more or less correct in this section. (I know nothing else about him than your quote.)
      And thank goodness.
      Because that enables us all to survive rather than kill those who disagree.

      Which is what you are advocating, you moron.

      Sometimes it seems that religious educational frameworks are designed to generate dangerous, extremist stupidity.

      @Ruvi, do you have something intelligent to add to the debate?

    5. National unity and common good of the nation are more important then the individuals rights or privileges. When a nation is being destroyed by a government, any government not just a democracy, that government or the system of government should be replaced. Will people die 8n the struggle? Possibly, but what is the alternative? A disintegration, defeat, subjugation or the extermination of a nation.

  7. I would always try to use a frum or at least a Jewish tradesman or a professional even if he is more expensive (within reason). וחי אחיך עמך. The ad was in bad taste though. The same message could have been conveyed in a less crude manner.

    1. The criterion should be shomer shabbat, not specifically charedi.

  8. *votes for man whose explicit plan for the occupied territories is that only racial Jews get a vote in the state elections determining who gets to point guns at who*

    *complains of a tribal working class professional advert*

    1. Yamina's plan is to annex Area C, including offering any Arabs therein citizenship.

      But who cares? I'm perfectly happy being the side who gets to determine who gets to point guns at who. Any Jew who isn't happy about that has been asleep since...well, since the start of Jewish history. You have a problem with that, you can live in a paradise like Syria.

    2. Nachum, Read Bennet's ToI interview I really don't think that acting as the armed forces of Otzma Yehudit is helpful to Israeli security, and if you have a problem with that, you can live in Chevron with the other race warriors.

      Mevaseretzion, the rules of who gets to vote in Israeli elections are explicitly based on the Nuremberg race laws.

    3. 'Mevaseretzion, the rules of who gets to vote in Israeli elections are explicitly based on the Nuremberg race laws.'
      Of course they're not. You're confusing rights to citizenship with the right to vote. All Israeli citizens can vote regardless of race or religion. Thus the Arab parties.
      However automatic right to citizenship is indeed based on the Nuremberg laws.

    4. So let me explain Bennett's racist plan for the West Bank to you. He wants to annexe it. It will become Israeli territory. Palestinians will get to vote - or to be ruled autocratically, Bennett is ambivalent - on only those issues Israel derogates - presumably sewerage. Defence, immigration, water, road blocks, telecommunications, customs, buildings - will be the preserve of the Jews. Anyone of Arab racial origin born in Area C won't get a sovereign vote in Israeli elections because of their racial origins. Only racial Jews, as defined by the citizenship laws, who are born in Area C, get a meaningful vote. Within Israel's borders the existing status quo where racial Arabs get a vote, will be maintained; but in the occupied territories, racial apartheid. If an Israeli Arab moved to Nablus his or her offspring would not get a vote. But if Meir Ettinger fathers a child in a caravan illegal even under Israeli law, his child will be entitled to vote and to call upon the overwhelming firepower of the IDF when he expropriates even more land from the Palestinian children.

      Your children spend most of their operational time in the army serving and securing Meir Ettinger and his ilk. 5 percent of the population hold the other 95 percent in their service, and I'm not talking about Charedim.

    5. Wow, how many anti-Israel cliches can you pack into one post?

      Lots of land "expropriated" from Palestinian children, eh? Lots of children owning land out there.

    6. I'm just confused here, Hat - are you a Neturei Kartanik? It's one thing to argue about values around an election but totally another to call a JEWISH leader who wants to help JEWISH citizens of a JEWISH country to give them an advantage over the NON-JEWS who live in areas in which many have come that are considered ENEMIES.

      This is racist??

      One can argue that it is unfair, but I hardly expect a religious Jew, one with such "tribal affiliations" that he cannot stand criticism from one Jewish subgroup to another, to make such a claim. Of course, perhaps that is your point - you are pretending to be a Leftist, and we should all have a good laugh but then move forward with smart-minded security measures.

    7. I don't identify anti Hilltop Youth rhetoric with opposition to the entire Zionist ideal of being a free people in our *own* land, but it is interesting how the violent kitzonim have captured the narrative of the entire state to the outside and the inside. If you feel uncomfortable with the clichés, don't vote for them. But Nachum, not even the original Kahana was quite performatively racist enough for you, so for you it's not really a cliché is it?

      (PS: We are all children of someone, even in adulthood, human cloning being some years away from prime time.)

    8. Dr Yosef, do you only treat racial Jews? Of course not - you treat everyone with dignity and respect.

      Here is my proposal for a moral and equitable treatment. Gerrymander the borders so that there is a majority of Jews on our side of the fence. Anyone of any racial origin who resides on our side gets a vote. Anyone resident on the other side does not. Jewish. And Democratic.

      My Seder table will not be tainted by wines from the militarily occupied territories, the fruits of racial apartheid.

    9. Incidentally, Dr Yosef, why do you think the Avraham Avinu settlement, which, with its approach routes, is guarded by 2 full active duty battalions, is so smart for Israel's security?

    10. Hat: I know you and I don't agree on several issues but we are very much aligned on this one....

    11. I'm sorry, The Hat, do I know you? I'm Nachum Lamm. Who are you?

      Meir Kahane (that's how he spelled his name, by the way) was quite good enough for me, thank you. I stand by my assertion that the hateful one here is, well, you.

    12. Sorry Nachum, I was being precisely wrong for cheap rhetorical effect. The late Rabbi Kahane was exactly sufficiently performatively racist for you. He was a superb, demotic public speaker, a natural charismatic leader, who has left his legacy in the casually racist discourse of the baby boomer generation like yourself. Every time a 55+ year old turns around to his friend at a kiddush and talks about how 'they' are 'animals' and 'only understand force', they are accurately articulating the world view, not of the Palestinian people, whose views are heterogeneous and ever evolving, but of the late Rabbi Kahane, for whom kochi v'otzem yadi and the yadayim of Eisav were his guiding light from youth up to his death.

      I don't think that I know either you or Me Moses (born Amsterdam), but I'm excessively solipsistic so it could be that I do. Either way, I prefer to keep the brim of my hat bent down low over my misanthropic visage, if not for my own sake, then for the sake of my family.

    13. I was born more than a decade after the Baby Boom ended. Try again.

    14. Hey The Hat, you seem to be a rare breed: a left-leaning socially conscious right-wing religious supporter (I am using the terms left and right not pejoratively, but descriptively, just to highlight the oddity) - of course, one can argue that being socially conscious is indeed a Torah value, but in practice such issues get missed and avoided if not outright belittled by the frummer crowd.

      Anyway, back to the issue at hand:

      The distinction between Israeli and Palestinian is not racial. It is not the same as blacks and whites in South Africa, or even in America. Israelis are not hateful toward Palestinians because they are different. Israelis fear Palestinians because they ("they" as a group, their leaders, their history, etc. even if not individual Achmed Smith and his family) wish Israel dead. Again, racial analogies: American blacks are not interested in killing all the white people and taking over, and whites - even racist ones - would be hard pressed to come up with a story convincing enough to make people believe that.

      Therefore: whatever residual military control is exerted over Yehuda v'Shomron is for the safety and security of Israelis.

      Now, to voting:
      There is a real demographic fear that the large number of Palestinians would overwhelm the Israeli population and change the government, essentially taking it over and rendering the it no longer Jewish. How this would impact the actual country would remain to be seen, but I could imagine changes in various laws and concepts such as Right of Return and military budgets and deployments etc. Whether there would then be an armed uprising to oust the non-Jewish government and allow the millions of Jews to remain safely in their own land would remain to be seen.

      Therefore: the opinion that Mr. Bennett has about control over the PA territories is not one built on racism or prejudice, but a century of experience, and prudence for the future.

      Side topic:
      In the interview that I read, he said that yes, Palestinians would be eligible for Covid vaccines. I assume it meant on the Israel government's dime. He says that Israelis would go first, but that Palestinians would not be denied this. There is a current (or recent) pro-and-con pair of articles in Newsweek magazine (available online) arguing whether Israel should be responsible for vaccinating the Palestinians. The con side makes a better argument - that the PA is its own political entity that is responsible to its own people, and the fact that they have spent tons of money supporting anti-Israel military actions does not make it Israel's responsibility to help out by spending money to bring vaccines there. Bennett even crosses this line, by saying that yes, he does support sending vaccines to the PA. So again, not racist, and even more giving than strictly legality demands.

      Of course, I absolutely support gerrymandering the green line to swallow up Jewish settlements and make them part of Israel proper. Here is where my ignorance of Israeli reality comes into play: aren't there Israeli Arabs who vote? Is there something that a Palestinian needs to do in order to be eligible? Perhaps your comment is really directed toward the other side of the fence - that Jews in Yehuda v'Shomron get a vote but their Arab neighbors do not? One can argue that they are actually citizens of a different country - the PA - and should be voting there. I'm not sure that it is generally accepted to vote in two different countries' elections - certainly in the US, it is considered dirty pool to vote in another state's elections (though as it does happen in specific instances - going back to the 1850's and "Bleeding Kansas" - I cannot say it is completely illegal).

  9. When Rabbi Slifkin's nephew was involved in an altercation with a terrorist, news articles and people's private opinion pages had all kinds of claims as to what he should have done at the time. Because Rabbi Slifkin had some kind of inside knowledge as to what was happening, he reacted sharply, claiming that the public does not know, nor is it possible for them to know, the actual facts or their interpretation.

    One would expect that the experience would have taught Rabbi Slifkin a lesson. But it seems that it hasn't. A YouTube video of Yanky Kaniyevsky and his grandfather is the sum total of the information that he has about Reb Chaim's decision making process. He doesn't know what went on before and after the video, he doesn't know to whom he spoke about the pandemic, and which sources he consulted with. And with regards to the burning issues of the day that get decided in the Knesset, he has no clue as to how the horse-trading gets conducted.
    The news is always skewed, and they never have the accurate information, as anyone who is personally involved knows.
    People vote Gimmel because they trust them to protect the basic needs and interests of the Torah world, which is the Yeshivos. Everything else is secondary to this basic need.

    1. There's every indication that RCK does not exhaustively research many of the questions brought to him from the clips themselves. In many cases yanky or someone else gives a brief description of "corona" or the vaccine or whatever and RCK answers. If he had done prior research those descriptions would make no sense. "You're telling ME what "corona" is? I've spoken to the top experts in the world for extended periods about it!"

    2. You may believe that is true, but you don't actually know at all. In fact, there are probably more videos of RCK talking to experts in corona than you have proof about how RCK makes decisions.
      But the media narrative trumps all. And the media has decided that Yanky is his sole conduit for information, so that is how it must be.
      The clips on YouTube are not the entire story at all, they are tightly selected by various people, for their reasons. You don't know what RCK really does, how he really thinks and what his decisions are based on.

    3. @zichron

      Regarding your last sentences "the basic needs of the Torah world which is the yeshivos, everything else is secondary"
      Please note : this view is not well established in the Jewish tradition

      You could make your sentences true by removing some words.
      "People vote Gimmel because they trust them to protect the Yeshivos." That works fine.

      But this is a terrible distortion of Yahdut. It may reflect the view of the majority of halacha observing Jews today. But it is still a distortion.

      The idea that the Yeshivot are what counts and everything else is secondary is so awful. It is a sad sad sad state of affairs that you can write it and not realize just how far you and your community have drifted from the mesorah you claim to value so much.

    4. zichron, I know what his decision to defend the molestor Elior Chen was based on, because he wrote it to my neighbor. He signed because other people signed.

    5. ZD,
      I've seen at least 4 videos of RCK giving immediate one or several word responses to brief descriptions of "corona" and the vaccine. Please post "more" of these alleged videos.

    6. Rabbi Slifkin - did you read over that sentence before you read it?
      You sound like an antivaxxer who 'knows' the facts from extensive Googling.

    7. Shlomo - why do you think the deliberations happen on video? Do you think the sum total of Fauci's deliberations were done on camera? Why would someone be so sure that he has all of the information?

      I think that the egalitarianism (I call it ignorance) of the Western world has so infected us, that we think that every person must have an opinion. If all he has to go by is four videos, too bad. An opinion must be had.
      But when the same people understand that when it comes to medicine you cannot rely on the news media reports, the hypocrisy comes to play. Torah is a lot harder than medicine, and if you did not put in the time to understand the Torah, it is bet if you left those decisions to those who did.
      The lack of self-awareness is outstanding!

    8. This conversation is ridiculous. You said there were probably more videos of RCK consulting with experts than there were videos indicating the opposite. I said, prove it, and you stammered, "V-v-videos? Why should we need videos to prove anything?" So you just threw out a claim with zero intention of backing it up?

    9. Shlomo - you misread my sentence. Read it again.
      I did not write:
      there were probably more videos of RCK consulting with experts than there were videos indicating the opposite.
      I wrote:
      there are probably more videos of RCK talking to experts in corona than you have proof about how RCK makes decisions

      Meaning, that even though there is a great shortage of videos of Rabbi Kaniyevsky talking to experts, there is a greater shortage of actual proof to Reb Chaim's decision making process. A ratio of 0 to 0.000001.

      My point was, your need to have an opinion is the sole backing to your opinion. Not actual facts. News reports and such conjecture.

    10. Zichron Devorim: Here's a challenge: Please find ONE video or ONE audio recording or even ONE example in writing that, for you, demonstrates Rav Chaim's having even a basic understanding of the complexities of ANY matter of public policy. Repeat: ANY matter of public policy. Any one at all, on ANY issue, DEMONSTRATING his even being conversant. (Not just your assuming he knows, but demonstrating that he knows.)

    11. You are baselessly conjecturing my need for an opinion while decrying baseless conjecture. Ironic to say the least.
      As I said above, when the people around RCK, Yanky etc. feel the need to explain to him the background for their question, clearly they think he doesn't know otherwise.
      Fauci's research does not take place on camera of course, but no one would phrase a question him as they regularly do to RCK: "There is aizeh machlah going around, and the govt say azoi, and the doctors say azoi, should a person do kach vkach?" This isn't absolute proof, of course, but it is not without basis.

    12. Fyi there are two Shlomos here, and the one with all the capital letters in his comment is a different one. I don't know why he didn't see fit to make that clear.

    13. I don't have the information for you. I have no proof at all that he consulted anyone. I cannot demonstrate it to you or to myself. But I do know FOR SURE that there are parts to the story that I don't know. I have no idea what goes on behind closed doors, and I am not privy to his methodology. So I don't know.

      Do you have any proof that he did not consult anyone? Do you have any knowledge as to how he reaches his conclusions?

      It is totally without basis, and only somebody with a predetermined opinion would consider this 'basis'.

    14. You have offered no response to my argument: Why does Yanky have to describe the virus or the vaccine when asking his question?

    15. What if I don't know the answer? Is that incontrovertible proof? It tells us absolutely nothing.

      But the videos look to me staged. The videos are made for the public, so the questioner pretends to be presenting the question.

    16. It would be nice if you were capable of more subtlety than "incontrovertible proof" and "absolutely nothing." There is plenty of room in between, as I made clear above.

    17. What we do know is A - we have no idea how and based on what Reb Chaim makes his decisions, and B - you still seem to be quite sure how he does it.

      אמונה פשוטה

    18. All I know is that I have repeatedly made a reasoned argument a number of times and you have ignored it each time without fail.
      An example: I am pretty certain that Trump is nuts. I judge this based on many things he has said and what has been said by those around him. The solipsist will gleefully (and self-satisfiedly) say: you don't *know* anything about trump or his decision making process! Do I know exactly what he's thinking? How he makes his decisions? No, and yet I've reached a perfectly reasonable position about it nonetheless. Surely there is room for disagreement about my inferences, but you're simply ignoring them and pretend that it's inappropriate to have any opinion/view/assumption about anything you didn't witness with your own eyes. That's absurd.

  10. "And for most humans, tribal affiliations trump everything."

    If this were true, why do the parties representing a sector with such massive population growth, only grow in size/seats at a snail's pace, if at all?

    I get the impression a good amount of charedi people see through the mirage and know this party can't lead, has no intention of leading, and is not owed anyone's vote. The numbers don't lie.

  11. Tribal affiliation is genetic.

  12. Many decades ago I heard a humorous story (you know the type - "it really happened!!" but who knows if it really did...) about a new oleh or olah who called for an exterminator but actually used the word "Chareidim" instead of the word for whatever bug or pest they wanted to get rid of. [I do not know what it could have been: nemalim? achbarim?] Anyway, the exterminator of course refuses to come to kill Chareidim. "Aval ani soneh otam!" protests the homeowner. "Ani soneh otam gam ken aval ani lo yachol!" replies the bugman.

    It was funny to a fourteen year old.

  13. The word you are looking for is חרקים(harakim) - insects.

    1. Thanks!
      That word occurred to me, but I thought it meant cracks, from the pasuk in Shir HaShirim "Mashgiach min Hachalonos; meitzitz min hacharakim." - "watching though the window; peering through the cracks (or lattice)." I did not realize there are two words, one with a kaf and the other with a kuf (koof? quf?).

      Watching through windows for insects I think is being a whole different kind of mashgiach - remez to this topic! and we've come full circle. Just a little late for Purim Torah...


Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.

Unhealthy Obsession or Valuable Critique?

The comments section on the previous post turned in an unexpected direction, with several people arguing that I have a mental health problem...