News & Blogs Why shame is the most dominant feature of modern poverty (1 Viewer)

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Why shame is the most dominant feature of modern poverty
Jeremy Seabrook
Poor people now seem to accept responsibility for what was previously seen as fate. And this is reinforced by the Tories’ welfare cuts


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Tuesday 30 September 2014 03.00 EDTLast modified on Friday 9 June 2017 14.39 EDT

With the renewed attack on welfare by the Conservative party, poverty increases. Yet people have become reluctant to acknowledge that they are poor. This has been brought home forcefully to me in the West Midlands. “I’m ashamed I can’t provide for my children.” “I don’t like people seeing me go to the food bank.” “I feel I’m doing something wrong.” “I find myself apologising all the time.” “Falling into debt is like drowning.” “I’m humiliated waiting for items that have reached their sell-by date.”

Shame is the most persistent attribute of contemporary poverty. This is a relatively new development since poor people have traditionally been proud, dignified, stoical; they have showed solidarity, even defiance, facing the condition of being poor. Why should shame be the particular inflection of poverty in this late enlightened age?


The Oxford English Dictionary defines shame as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour”. The operative word in this context is “consciousness”. They have become aware of their own bad conduct or faulty actions. And this is precisely what the government intends people to experience, since punitive policies enhance a sense of guilt. It seems the poor have internalised the assessment of – who? Their betters, the rich, legislators, moralists? – and are ready to accept responsibility for what has, through the ages, been seen as a visitation by chance, fate, even God, but not necessarily, at least until the industrial era, as evidence of their own failings.

How has this ideological fiction passed into everyday acceptance? While the poor remained in the majority, despite being constantly told that poverty was their lot, that it was determined elsewhere than in the social and economic system in which it was located, this view of their condition was fiercely resisted because they knew that no matter how hard they worked and tried to adhere to the values of their society, they could not attain sufficiency for themselves and their dependants.

Direct experience disconfirmed for most of them the sad fable that they were victims of their own folly, idleness or improvidence. Indeed, this was the basis of much of the resistance to capitalism: the idea that we are simply individuals who must make our own private accommodation with wealth and power was vehemently repudiated by those who knew otherwise, and recognised the role of a society that withheld from them the necessities for survival.

The labour movement was founded on just this recognition. Accordingly, the malignant assertion that poverty was a personal failing was negated by the power of people to negotiate collectively for a decent level of living, an honourable livelihood or, in a more ancient formulation, a fair day’s pay for a far day’s work.

No wonder it has been the objective of governments – not all of them avowedly reactionary or Conservative; indeed the Labour party, sometime defenders of the poor, has abandoned them in search of elusive majorities among squeezed middles and hard-working families – to weaken the power of collective resistance, to undermine institutions created by the poor for self-defence. This task has been assisted in recent decades by a spectacular rise in prosperity. The advent of consumer society was accompanied by a profound psychological change in poor people, which predisposed them more readily to accept a proposition they had previously resented and rejected.



When the good times came – in the 1950s and 1960s especially – most were swift to accept personal responsibility for this happy development. They were content to link growing affluence with their own merit: just rewards were at last conceded to those working in industries that were fast disappearing. Such rewards might be taken as a retrospective recompense for past suffering, want and exploitation. People were complicit in seeing the better times as a consequence of their own hard work, thrift and husbandry. They did so under a cacophony of hymns to commodities, paeans of praise to goods and services, hosannas to market freedoms, and to a disorientingly dazzling embarrassment of riches in the display windows of the world.

In such a context, the corollary was that those who neglected to take advantage of the ubiquitous abundance must be suffering from some moral defect. So eager was capitalism to pour its riches into our lap that you would have to be very incompetent indeed not to take advantage of its pressing desire to help you to the good life.


In this environment, belief that the poor were culpable found new listeners and eager converts; particularly when the poor could so readily be assimilated to many other social groups – drug addicts, alcoholics, deviants, thugs, vandals, yobs, scroungers, spongers, parasites and all the other moral outlaws of plenty, obligingly brought to our attention by the friends of the people in the popular press.

So it is that the majority, the no longer poor, now turn against those who have not availed themselves of all that capitalism innocently wishes to shower upon them; and under the barrage of resentment and loathing this incapacity incurs, is it any wonder that poor people faithfully echo the dominant view of their condition? Since they are now a minority – although substantial – they no longer pose any electoral threat to the wellbeing of the rest and can be treated with the punitive disdain they now deserve.

Shame, then, is the measure of acceptance by the poor of their own responsibility for their outcast state. Deprived, impoverished, non-participants in the epic party-time that is too-late capitalism, they seek to conceal themselves, hide their wounds, dissimulate their shabbiness and ill-nourishment. At the same time, they afford the well-to-do an opportunity for self-righteous defamation – a practice of which right-thinking majorities are not slow to take conspicuous advantage of.

© 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.
 
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I would also add that welfare agencies like social services have also been accused by some intellectuals as being nothing more then poor shaming mouthpieces for those in power and were created for that purpose as a form of social control - make recipients feel guilty about taking food stamps or some public aid, and the outcome will be less people taking those services as attitudes disseminate through society.

Would also add that the rising business class in the 1400 and 1500's sort of sold the idea of capital accumulation by taking advantage of the pre existing work ethic, but with a twist - they kept there power by attacking the older religious idea of "divine right" to rule. They said "if you work hard for us, you can be like us, unlike the kings who make you work for them but will forever keep you in your low place."

So this is the historical birth of what's known as "classical liberalism", and grew as a response to hereditary titles. What's interesting for me is that over a period of some 500 years, attitudes about the amount of control one has over there life went drastically from one side - that everything is deterministic, to the other - that everything is within our godlike control. What's more interesting is this happened at precisely the same time that science took hold. If anything you would think the opposite trend be true - that the increase of understanding of the natural world, with its mechanistic slant, would create attitudes of resignation in the face of such titanic forces. But instead we have that godlike projection of our own power over fate, and consequently, nature itself.
 
A

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It is also within our power to untangle the "shame" creating notions put in our minds, along with many others, and game the system.
 
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It is also within our power to untangle the "shame" creating notions put in our minds, along with many others, and game the system.
There was a writer, Virginia Woolf, that explored those internalized notions. She called them the "invisible shackles". She also noted that when someone or something comes to free us, we become hostile. I think phycology calls that indoctrination.

I for one do not think it's within our power to fully free ourselves from it. Maybe at best loosen the chains. Otherwise social engineers wouldn't go through the massive trouble and expense of implementing these programs. Second we can't even fully know the extent that we have been indoctrinated to begin with - which not only makes those shackles invisible to others but also ourselves.
 
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D

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Just want to say this thread made my night. It's been awhile since I've seen this topic on character attacking terrorism.


I want to add I think that Internalization of shame from poverty on single mothers is a ride to hell that will leave them and their children unreciprocated of love an basic human virtues, let alot complected ones.

The shame put on single mothers, especially if they are not attractive by normal social standards, mentality degraded/I'll, abused by being in the shadows of their partner's/friends/families better fortunes (or straight up abuse), come from abuse, or living too closely to folks with go-go lives will further be isolated and leave them and their children vulnerable to, you guessed it, more abuse.

Invisible abuse. Once the parent feels effectively ostracized because of their "poor decisions" they rely solely on the state.

Solely on the state.

Because they are subhuman to their peers and can't interact without reminders of soul crushing shame of being the poor relative or a product of charitable intervention by some lady bountiful. They cut themselves off, building a unique shame in isolation. Their kids too, as they shuffle off into a unfamiliar neighborhood or emergency housing where, in my experience, the sickest fucks in society are employed.

I've seen families, especially people of color, terrorized by staff at these places solely because at this point, they can not perceive they have any humanity and sociopaths feed on that. Or they get kicked out and tread the streets (hopefully they have a car).

They become scapegoats at every turn. Magnets for serious abuse because, fuck, where are they gonna turn? There is nowhere for them to go.

Lost something? Her kids stole it!
Want to get out of a lease? Blame her kids for the broken slate walkway!
Having a bad day? Take it all out on some stranger rat's piglets and yell at them while you rummage through what's left of their lives because they violated a 'no food' policy in the shelter.
What to feel better about yourself? Clean out your garage and clutter their attic apartment then tell you and her friends how marvelous you are.
Hate Latinos? Well roll up you sleeves wear that shitty smerk and pick on some children
Haven't been layed in abit? Who are they gonna tell.
Just plan don't like someone? Call CPS on them.
People give you shit at home because you don't address your OCD? Look! People to Lord over!

This particular shame of single mothers in poverty, in junction with stigma, ("how irresponsible, why would she have kids with him... Gossip, gossip,..... I can't believe how stupid she is to let him talk her into pursueing that.. gossip gossip... Eww let's call CPS again") the DSS spider web, racist America, and so, so many more elements leads to their children coming home with a elementary 'about me' project that stays poor as a characteristic. These hole in the wall families are saturated in disgrace.

The Internalization source of shame for the children is a congealment of nurtured confusion and can instill a more extreme hyperinflated shame. Once pushed into the world all they know is bad living conditions, abuse, and to repeat the process or turn into reckless abusers themselves. Even if mindful, I can't imagine any really escape or recover scene they never really leave it, just adapt new adult responsibilities

I'm talking of course from personal experience solely, both my own and those that I've known who road the bus and stood on the lines. Because they have to plead and beg the state like circus animals for basic human rights and the 'boot strap' narrative, after awhile or straight from birth the blame becomes identity.
 
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Just want to say this thread made my night. It's been awhile since I've seen this topic on character attacking terrorism.


I want to add I think that Internalization of shame from poverty on single mothers is a ride to hell that will leave them and their children unreciprocated of love an basic human virtues, let alot complected ones.

The shame put on single mothers, especially if they are not attractive by normal social standards, mentality degraded/I'll, abused by being in the shadows of their partner's/friends/families better fortunes (or straight up abuse), come from abuse, or living too closely to folks with go-go lives will further be isolated and leave them and their children vulnerable to, you guessed it, more abuse.

Invisible abuse. Once the parent feels effectively ostracized because of their "poor decisions" they rely solely on the state.

Solely on the state.

Because they are subhuman to their peers and can't interact without reminders of soul crushing shame of being the poor relative or a product of charitable intervention by some lady bountiful. They cut themselves off, building a unique shame in isolation. Their kids too, as they shuffle off into a unfamiliar neighborhood or emergency housing where, in my experience, the sickest fucks in society are employed.

I've seen families, especially people of color, terrorized by staff at these places solely because at this point, they can not perceive they have any humanity and sociopaths feed on that. Or they get kicked out and tread the streets (hopefully they have a car).

They become scapegoats at every turn. Magnets for serious abuse because, fuck, where are they gonna turn? There is nowhere for them to go.

Lost something? Her kids stole it!
Want to get out of a lease? Blame her kids for the broken slate walkway!
Having a bad day? Take it all out on some stranger rat's piglets and yell at them while you rummage through what's left of their lives because they violated a 'no food' policy in the shelter.
What to feel better about yourself? Clean out your garage and clutter their attic apartment then tell you and her friends how marvelous you are.
Hate Latinos? Well roll up you sleeves wear that shitty smerk and pick on some children
Haven't been layed in abit? Who are they gonna tell.
Just plan don't like someone? Call CPS on them.
People give you shit at home because you don't address your OCD? Look! People to Lord over!

This particular shame of single mothers in poverty, in junction with stigma, ("how irresponsible, why would she have kids with him... Gossip, gossip,..... I can't believe how stupid she is to let him talk her into pursueing that.. gossip gossip... Eww let's call CPS again") the DSS spider web, racist America, and so, so many more elements leads to their children coming home with a elementary 'about me' project that stays poor as a characteristic. These hole in the wall families are saturated in disgrace.

The Internalization source of shame for the children is a congealment of nurtured confusion and can instill a more extreme hyperinflated shame. Once pushed into the world all they know is bad living conditions, abuse, and to repeat the process or turn into reckless abusers themselves. Even if mindful, I can't imagine any really escape or recover scene they never really leave it, just adapt new adult responsibilities

I'm talking of course from personal experience solely, both my own and those that I've known who road the bus and stood on the lines. Because they have to plead and beg the state like circus animals for basic human rights and the 'boot strap' narrative, after awhile or straight from birth the blame becomes identity.
That's a good point, i like how you explained it as "invisible abuse" - attacks on the mind leave no obvious recognizable marks for others to see. This is radical, but I would argue psychological abuse is far more devastating then any physical attack - for the simple reason that the mind controls the body. If the mind is subverted or compromised, the person, as we define them, has changed, as in the words of Sun Tzu
"The mind commands and the body obeys"
Whereas the body, even if attacked and beaten, the individual identity remains. Of course this relies on stoic and Cartesian principles of the mind ("As long as one stays true, one can be happy on the rack").

In plain English, a person can, for the most part, keep there identity if what assaults them is dealing attacks to the body because the individual is still able to exercise autonomy and control. If we, as political theorists seem to have discovered very early, control and attack a person's beliefs, or a person's sense of worth, they become easily susceptible to suggestion - and hence control (Naomi Kline's "Shock Doctrine" comes to mind).

The second point you made is what you called "relying solely on the state". This idea of creating dependency on power totally permeates all of political philosophy. Machiavelli brings this to the forefront.

To summarize, he said that leaders power over the people comes from having a lot more shit then everyone around them. The leaders keep all the potential usurpers at bay by buying them off, keeping his position. But something interesting happens - if the lower classes start to have more security and stability, the leaders in power can't get them to do what they want them to do anymore. They won't follow. The leaders, though, simply can't get more things to use as leverage over the population - they reached there upper limit. The leaders can't get more things to buy off compliance, but they can take things away to make up the difference. When people are hungry and desperate, they will, according to Machiavelli, do things they wouldn't have done otherwise.

Again in plain English, a full stomach tends not to obey orders. The best example he gave was Rome, and how they handed out free bread ("bread and circuses") to the population, to make them more compliant and obey the state. What the people never realized is that the only reason they had to go and get free food so they wouldn't starve was because the leaders intentionally deprived the population in the first place (food stamps?).

Sorry for the book. Glad you liked it. Not too many people are into political philosophy. I see it as self defense, not abstract theory.
 
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DrewSTNY

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Great thread. I really rail against the whole thing about your social position being predetermined. I think that is a characteristic of most western civilization. Also, I try to live outside the system as much as I can. That way "they" can't tell me who I am. I am fortunate that I live in an area where many people do for themselves and are happy, although would be considered low income. We help each other out with food and what not - or do odd jobs for each other to get by. A lot of people rent, but rent is pretty cheap so it's not too hard especially if there are several people paying into the bills every month.

It's unfortunate that the basic family unit has been dismantled in Western culture. I don't really care what orientation you are, having a partner in life whether you are gay or straight makes living so much easier. I think that's the basis for collectivism, too. The smallest collective is the family unit, when all else fails, at least you have each other. The way things are now, when everything fails, all many people have is the state.

Now I know there is the angle of gaming the system. My feeling is that any participation in the state whether you are for or against it only perpetuates the state. The only public assistance I have ever taken was health insurance for my kids. That was only for as long as necessary when I was completely out of work or working for cash. I have friends that would rather die starving and destitute than become wards of the state. That's pretty much the way I feel. If I had to do it over, I would probably go without insurance and become friends with a doctor that would agree to see my family on the side. (Incidentally, this is pretty much why I was able to get by without insurance - one of my best friends is a doc. He would throw out any bills his office generated to me for a long time when I was out of work)

So long story short, help each other out. Don't participate in normal society if you don't have to, you will be a lot happier.
 
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Great thread. I really rail against the whole thing about your social position being predetermined. I think that is a characteristic of most western civilization. Also, I try it live outside the system as much as I can. That way "they" can't tell me who I am. I am fortunate that I live in an area where many people do for themselves and are happy, although would be considered low income. We help each other out with food and what not - or do odd jobs for each other to get by. A lot of people rent, but rent is pretty cheap so it's not too hard especially if there are several people paying into the bills every month.

It's unfortunate that the basic family unit has been dismantled in Western culture. I don't really care what orientation you are, having a partner in life whether you are gay or straight makes living so much easier. I think that's the basis for collectivism, too. The smallest collective is the family unit, when all else fails, at least you have each other. The way things are now, when everything fails, all many people have is the state.

Now I know there is the angle of gaming the system. My feeling is that any participation in the state whether you are for or against it only perpetuates the state. The only public assistance I have ever taken was health insurance for my kids. That was only for as long as necessary when I was completely out of work or working for cash. I have friends that would rather die starving and destitute than become wards of the state. That's pretty much the way I feel. If I had to do it over, I would probably go without insurance and become friends with a doctor that would agree to see my family on the side. (Incidentally, this is pretty much why I was able to get by without insurance - one of my best friends is a doc. He would throw out any bills his office generated to me for a long time when I was out of work)

So long story short, help each other out. Don't participate in normal society if you don't have to, you will be a lot happier.
To explore more on what you wrote "Rail against social position being determined" - There was a time when "social mobility" was more credible as a myth. "Opportunity" was defined as free land and self sufficiency through living off that land. And people did take advantage of it. You could come to America from wherever circumstances you come from and have a shot at starting over. Didnt quite work for them too well but that's s different topic. Well now we don't have any more "free" land we can steal from native peoples. Opportunity now means getting a good job through education and moving up the corporate ladder. It went drastically from "taking care of yourself" to "being employed".

I think the shift partly comes from the so called "robber barons", the most wealthy men coming out of the 1800s when they applied there immense wealth to take a hand at social engineering. Some Marxists historians take a keen interest in this part of American history because it highlights capitalism at its worst. Rockefeller amassed his wealth through using inhuman and ruthless tactics (For example, it was later discovered he stopped a labor strike in his mines by having the leaders quietly assassinated) and Marxists explain that Rockefellers interest in social engineering was out of fear of the very unregulated, no holds barred capitalism that he so took advantage of, producing rivals to his empire. He wanted to secure his power from any potential threats. (Sounds like Greek mythology, the Titan Chronos eating his children out of fear of himself loosing his power :/ He created the board of education to implement his plans, and in its famous mission statement it reads

“In our dreams, people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present education conventions of intellectual and character education (a shout out to the remnants of Victorianism?) fade from their minds and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into men of learning or philosophers, or men of science. We have not to raise up from them authors, educators, poets or men of letters, great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, statesmen, politicians, creatures of whom we have ample supply. The task is simple. We will organize children and teach them in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way."

They took a page strait from Plato - if one wants to change society, "let us start with the children". We can see that massive efforts to reduce social mobility taking effect through use of indoctrination of the young. Over a hundred years later, I think it worked better then anyone could have guessed.

On the topic of the family unit being dismantled, you wrote "The smallest collective is the family unit" rather brilliantly, as it mirrors both Confucius and Plato - "The origin of the state is the family".

I don't have enough research to prove this, but Im taking a wild guess that the decline of family is the result or consequence of a few factors, not something intentionally planned (?) But it wouldn't surprise me at all if it was :l
1 - effects of decreasing wages for the working class since the 60s, forcing two incomes.
2 - Capitalisms work based ethic that puts economic needs over social needs
3 - Rise of feminism redefining life goals for women.

Pope Francis is very outspoken on this topic. The majority of his speeches have been about critiquing capitalism through using the decline of stable family life. The content and research of his speeches are exceptional. If anyone is interested, I can try to dig up some of his speeches and post it.

Lastly, you wrote a general principle - "my feeling is that any participation in the state whether you are for or against it only perpetuates the state." I seem to be thinking that disobedience is a form of participation, albeit a negative one, different from positive, which is support of its goals (?) Because to disobey or flee still implies some sort of relationship with the object your fleeing from. It seems to be implied through the structure of the sentence - "participation in the state whether for or against" predicated both "for" and "against" under "participation". O.o ugh... Yeah.
 
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And for anyone interested Chomsky, the famous anarchist, explains so much better and simpler how the poor are intentionally frightened and made to be dependent. The video is about four minutes long.

 

creature

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folks who know me have my #.
ok.
so we all know the need for war.

how do you fight it?

Drew?
i saw you launch a goddamned spaceship full of hard, labored love,
Captained by a Flaming Alien
& steadied by the Quietude of the Still, Swimming Water..

i know you know your weapons
i know you teach their use.
i know you fight the way to fight that is stronger than shedding blood...

who will rise up with more than words?

so many, many words..

as if words are easy..

why write?

go.

if shame kills, then then find someone shamed
who hates their fucking shame
& give them your goddamned weapons..

Christ, i tire of the teleological semantics of quantized justice..

i tire of people trying to sound smart & thinking they are Powerfull, because of it..

i tire of fucking theory..

i tire of names..

go.

put dirt on your hands.
gamble with your love that is no more than the mere equivalency of Hope..

risk what you Are upon what you Respect
& throw that fucking shit into the Wind...

*be* fucking powerfull, & *show* that shame is only illusion..

holy fuck..

flow charts & technical diagrams for social order?

what kind of a fucking government are these goddamned fucking intellectuals proposing?

burn the fuckers that aren't as smart as them??

holy christ!

do you really think *anyone* can be so perfect as to not piss off someone else that they won't hold a grudge for the rest of their life?

ok, so.. yeah.. maybe there are a few out there that can see past thier own assholeishness, but.. i don't think you can get even 7 million fucking people together, like that..
all you can do is make the goddamned fucking illogical (though verbosely justifiable) assumption that people will be nice if you teach them to be nice, so that means we only need to.. what..
wait for 9 generations of humans beyond the present 6 billion in order to make a fresh & successfull start on this fucking planet??

i am going to give all of our thinking a goddamned piece of truth:
the problems of human existence are intractable.

unless you reduce human numbers to a manageable level before sustaining resources collapse..

maybe those resources can be perpetuated for some time by technological means, but not forever, and certainly not by 'anarchists'..

all this fucking theory won't count for shit when the time comes to do the work required to exist within whatever reality we find handed to our sorry asses..

how.. HOW.. are you going to cure shame in a fashion that is better than fucking with a limp dick, UNLESS you declare a goddamned active war & bodily bring yourself to assail not only your enemies, but the enemies of humanity?

the answer is........??????

you can't.

all our anarchist theory points to one fucking thing:
armed fucking uprising.

so if you aren't going to advocate *that*, then everything you think about is just about as potent as piss steaming in snow...

so if we *can't* rise up, in arms, not because there is not blood that needs, perhaps, less pity than joy,
but because we are, ultimately, a people of love & peace
& perhaps even, honestly, cowardice...

what War *is* there then, that we can do?

& if you answer me with some protracted dialogue, i hope you gag on the shit that exits from your tongue..

what is YOUR obligation..
go out today & DO something..

teach..

build

fight, motherfuckers..

you want to eradicate shame?

go.

gather them.

stop fucking talking & DO.
 

DrewSTNY

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Creature, I love you! That spaceship had a hard landing in the west, but thankfully, due to another rocket scientist, it's back in orbit.

I agree, doing is better than theory. We fight for our existence against our own stupidity. Fighting to make memories and great friends are the things we can reminisce about when we are older sitting around the great campfire.

Political theory is just that, theory. Civilization is a dirty, bloody cesspool that we slog through daily trying not to drown in our own shit. Many are happily standing on top of a pile of dead bodies feeling good about themselves because they've "over come." But it's all complete bullshit.
 

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