Presenting: Ultra-Unorthodox, an illustrated story

Presenting: Ultra-Unorthodox, an illustrated story

Once upon a time, there was a fanatical Orthodox community in New York City. Its people fervently believed that all that mattered in life was fearing an invisible deity called Covid. These zealots lived a peculiar life with special garb, arcane rules, peculiar customs, and believed all who didn’t do the same would doom all of humanity to hell.

They had bizarre rituals with oddly specific instructions, like washing hands for 30 seconds, leaving deliveries on the porch for 72 hours, and standing no more (and no less?) than six feet apart. They practiced “social distancing” and were prohibited from hugging and shaking hands, and they called this manner of living the “new normal.”

Our Covidism fanatics spent day and night feverishly studying their sacred text called The New York Times. They always followed the dogma of their cannon: The Science. They exalted their leaders, The Experts. They honked horns and banged pots for the foot soldiers of their faith.

In their Church of Zoom, their preachers reiterated that everything was worth the price of Saving Souls. Also, they talked about how selfish those were who did not heed the faith. They also agreed on the importance of snitching on friends and neighbors who were sinners, because, it was for their own good, no?

Our heroine, Etsy, was miserable. She was forced to sit cooped up with her extremist husband who obsessively sprayed sanitizer at her and who insisted on having sex with a hole in the sheet in order to avoid spreading an evil spirit called Germs.

Etsy was also driven crazy by her mother-in-law who was always fixing a mask on her mouth, and by her aunt, who constantly told her that her purpose in life was to serve the higher purpose of Saving Souls by “sheltering in place” and never leaving the house, except to get bread (and even then, only when wrapped in layers of protection).

Etsy said “enough” and escaped! She ran all the way to Europe, specifically, a utopia-ish country called Sweden.

In Sweden, people were cool-cool and ate germs for lunch.

Etsy went to a beach crowded with people who were not standing six feet apart. She gasped. It was a profound culture shock and deeply liberating! Etsy slowly removed her mask (after stripping off all her clothing). A lot of people stared because she was naked and still had on a paper mask and rubber gloves. The moment was rife with symbolism and profound liberation as Etsy stood bare and defiant before the invisible Covid.

Later, Etsy met a random person at the concert hall, and that person held out a hand. Etsy shuddered. It was forbidden! Yet she slowly and brilliantly stretched out hers, and as their hands met, she was overcome with pleasure!

But Etsy’s escape wasn’t so easy. She was chased by a tracing committee sent by The Experts. But the committee got too lightheaded from breathing in their own carbon monoxide, so they never managed to drag her back and force her into isolation.

Meanwhile back home, Etsy was ostracized by everyone and called a “denier” and not a believer in The Science, and her grandmother said, “you are killing me!”

Etsy was not considered brave. Netflix did not make a film of Etsy. Etsy died. Of Covid 2119. She was 146 years old at the time of death and caught the virus from her fantastic lover. If you put your ear to her tombstone, you can hear her having herself a good laugh.

  • Berl
    Posted at 00:37h, 17 May Reply

    An amazing story, but I don’t get to the point,?

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 10:06h, 17 May Reply

      Yeah, amazing story indeed! But there definitely is a point. Why don’t you try to guess and I’ll tell you if you’re getting it? Hint: the point has something to do with people being extremely close-minded and not realizing it…

  • Geisa
    Posted at 11:37h, 17 May Reply

    Frieda!!! Be VERY careful! This story is so good I wouldn’t be afraid of copying it and putting my name to it! Why hadn’t I thought of this first? Nothing disingenuous and extremely creative. Love your sense of humour and acidic criticism. I’ve been meaning to comment on your other posts, but my friend, it takes A LOT to level up to you. Love you work!!

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 11:47h, 17 May Reply

      You are way way too kind and you just made my day. Please comment always! I look forward to comments here, especially such nice ones. But also just your thoughts too!

  • True Believer
    Posted at 16:48h, 18 May Reply

    And she killed a bunch of other people, but since she didn’t know who they were, it did not trouble her conscience.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 17:03h, 18 May Reply

      That’s what the “true believers” believed. These believers never bothered to prove their claims that Etsy “doomed others to death.” And neither did they trouble themselves to find out if many more deaths would have occurred if she (and others like her) hadn’t rebelled. They also didn’t realize that death is a fact of life and thought that any death should be someone’s fault.

      But the believers kept claiming moral high ground, as this is how fanatics work, and how tyranny is justified.

      But lucky for our story, our heroine understood all this, and paid no mind to the true believers, because she understood what true bravery was. True bravery was not to cower in fear, not to claim to be the moral right above all. True bravery is to have empathy and understanding for others. True bravery is ignoring a mob that is driven by tunnel vision and virtue signaling and to keep your head on straight. To give yourself room to think and to be honest with yourself.

      True bravery was also – mind you – understanding that people are scared and need some time to come around, which is why our heroine never gave up faith that others, like our friend True Believer, can come around and understand her position.

      In future installments we shall find out what happened with that particular subplot! 🙂

  • Human Enough
    Posted at 07:31h, 19 May Reply

    Nice play with words.
    With all the respect, while nicely written, it’s retheric rather than making a valid point. If your intented audience are not just a handful of germaphobes I struggle to see your point.

    Do you think that Sweden’s herd-immunity strategy is the correct approach ?
    Say so. Explain your opinion.

    Do you think that the lockdown imposed by most countries in Europe, Asia and America are not based on science at all, they are just based on emotions or some “belief” ?
    Say so. Explain your opinion.

    Do you think that the CDC is one big conspiracy, fabricating situations to achieve some goal ? Or that the coronavirus is a hoax?
    Say so. Explain your opinion.

    Do you think that the lockdown has gone too far, or that it’s time to lift it ?
    Say so. Explain your opinion.

    And one more question…..
    Do you compare the chassidic lifestyle, their customs and education, the way they interact with the world around them, and the way they are viewed by the world to the way most countries are handling the coronavirus ?

    I really tried to find it funny. But I couldn’t.
    The coronavirus is something that had to be confronted by policy makers. Whether they got it right or wrong is up for debate, but it isn’t a joke.
    The coronavirus has killed tens of thousands (includimg some I personally know) in 2 months. You can argue that the lockdown haven’t saved any lives, you can argue the numbers are inflated, but it isn’t something to joke about.

    Tens of thousands of kids in NYC that are “educated” in the chassidish yeshivos do not speak English, cannot write in any language, lack basic knowledge of math, science, history, geography etc. And they are being shielded from having anything even resembling critical thinking.
    And that is not something to joke about!!!

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 12:24h, 19 May Reply

      I do not think the virus is a hoax. I think our response has been wrong and driven by panic, and it has not taken into account the tremendous down-the-line devastation of the lockdown. I have talked about this in other posts (ie, this and this but I wrote about my position only in relation to the Hasidic community. That’s because the larger critique of the response and lockdown was discussed extremely eloquently by others, and is beyond the scope of this blog.

      If you want to read more lockdown criticism read these very wise, very thoughtful, very clear voices:
      Knut Wittkowski
      Toby Young
      Lionel Shriver
      Peter Hitchens
      Alex Branson
      Alexis FitzGerald

      There are many more. There arguments are compelling and are being borne out by the evidence.

      This post is a satire; it’s a spoof on the show Unorthodox, which depicted Hasidim as extremists, fanatics, dumbed down believers. What really bothers me (and it’s not funny to me either, trust me) is that people (in the secular world) who claim to be better than that actually behave in the very extremist, close minded, terrorizing way that they claim Hasidim to be.

      And it’s no coincidence either. People who will misrepresent Hasidim in such black and white ways will inevitably fall victim to the very problems of black and white thinking that they supposedly reject.

      I live in the secular world and I’m so tired of seeing people here behave in much the way that Hasidim did, only with one added irksome bit: they puff themselves up and claim to be the enlightened ones. So not only do I see rampant fanaticism, propaganda, censorship, shunning, deferral to authority, but also, the people around me claim that they do the very opposite.

      If only they held up a mirror to themselves… maybe we could have an adult conversation about the lockdown.

  • Bitacoin
    Posted at 18:31h, 21 May Reply

    I love your writing. Always have. Probably always will. Question; if you see many of the same behaviors in the secular world, would you assume that Hasidism is not the issue , rather it is an ideology of conforming as opposed to independent thought. As a second question are you sure you would rather have all people , even uneducated ones be independent thinkers ?

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 19:07h, 21 May Reply

      Hey Bitacoin. I think the issue isn’t a problem of *all* societies but rather of social climates in which dissent is squashed and diverse opinions dismissed. It’s when society “let’s itself go” intellectually speaking and gets tribal, emotionally driven, and doesn’t do the hard work of keeping narcissism and groupthink in check. I think the secular world has seen better times. When I read things from 40 years ago, we can see a journalism for instance that at least tries to keep people thinking. The clickbait age has turned our “free thinking” society into a conformist dystopia.

      It’s like – Hasidism is 1984 and modern internet life is Brave New World.

      As for independent thinkers — I do think there needs to be a degree of leaning on authority, always. No one can be an expert in everything so we need to lean on experts. But our public intellectuals need to keep our experts on their toes so that us dummies (we are all dumb on certain issues!) can be free to trust semi-blindly. 🙂 🙂

      Thanks for the thought provoking questions. Careful not to think too much. Heh heh!!

  • Sarah Berger
    Posted at 02:18h, 31 May Reply

    Hahaha Frieda, a Swiftian touch!

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 10:29h, 31 May Reply

      Hi Sarah Berger:


      (you’ll have to imagine it because I can’t figure out how to put it here)

  • Shirley Jean Haney
    Posted at 18:57h, 18 July Reply

    I like this story and also some things you put on you tube. People started saying STAY SAFE as a way of saying goodbye or something during COVID and it freaks me out every time I hear it, and makes me sad. What kind of world can it be when we say things like that, and I don’t mean it because I believe in COVID, I don’t. I think what I mean is how you talk to someone says by implication you want them safe so saying it seems cold. Like faint praise or something.

    • Frieda Vizel
      Posted at 19:10h, 18 July Reply

      Yeah, “stay safe” feels very on par with our safe, sterilized world. Alas – this cartoon story is one of my favorite posts so thanks for revisiting it.

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