Nelson Mandela's Failed Legacy

Discussion of various public figures

Nelson Mandela's Failed Legacy

Postby Caleb » 06 Dec 2013, 03:45

With the death of Nelson Mandela, the internet is full of platitudes about him. In some sense, when people such as my cousin (who knows nothing about history and would probably struggle to find South Africa on a map) posts something on the topic, you know it's jumped the shark.

I contend that rather than being a great figure of history, in fifty to one hundred years, he will be an irrelevance, and maybe even remembered badly.

People want to talk about his legacy, yet what is his legacy? South Africa is a corrupt country with endemic poverty still, sky high crime rates (especially murder and rape) and an AIDS epidemic. There has been a mass exodus of the middle class to any countries that will take them. I'm not even talking about white South Africans fleeing to Australia, for example. There is a huge diaspora of illegal kindergarten teachers working under exploitative conditions in Taiwan. Many have absolutely zero desire to integrate into the society (even if it would allow them to do so) and actively hate this place, along with all of the people here. Yet anywhere is better than South Africa. What does that tell you about South Africa and Mandela's legacy?

A lot of people will try to pass Mbeki or Zuma off as having nothing to do with Mandela, and this is where the main thrust of my argument comes in.

I posit that these people are the direct consequence of the failures of Mandela as a founding father of his nation. I take a somewhat jaded and sceptical view of history. Revolutions almost always seem to lead to failure. People jump on board with an idealistic leader promising them the world. At some point, that leader dies or steps down. Then the Machiavellian types waiting in the wings step in and the real fun begins. This has happened countless times, yet people still get surprised by it.

One example of this not happening was the U.S., and the difference, I believe, revolves around ego and the cult of personality. Of course people idolised Washington, Jefferson, etc., and still do. However, Washington and Jefferson realised some very fundamental truths about human nature and the beauty of their system, and its successes (at least until relatively recently) were in precisely understanding that, by definition, your legacy goes beyond you. If it all goes to hell the moment you are out of the picture, then it's not a real legacy, it's your own personality cult, it's a failure at a systemic level, at the level of the founder. It's not a mere accident.

Of course, I understand why people have latched onto Mandela. He is a fitting symbol of the times we live in. His legacy, to a certain extent, is also a little glimpse into the modern zeitgeist and the future of that. This has nothing to do with race per se, but it does have everything to do with the unintended consequences of touchy feely politics, of unthinkingly replacing one corrupt and self-serving elite with another. It is about the entirely predictable (yet seemingly surprising to most people) attendant destruction or flight of the middle class, and thus, the attendant destruction of prosperity and political stability. Regardless of what one thinks of white South Africans, how have things actually improved for those the revolution was supposed to serve (i.e. ordinary blacks)?
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Re: Nelson Mandela's Failed Legacy

Postby Gavin » 07 Dec 2013, 10:57

There are some different points of view on Mandela here too (also in the comments). When I say "different" I mean different to what is allowed in the MSM.

With regard to The Telegraph turning off comments on all articles, I suppose it is partly the usual issue that black people may not be criticised, but also in part a matter of taste - after all the man has just died. Mind you, TD faulted Amy Winehouse immediately upon her death. Who had the most pernicious influence, her or Mandela?!

There are white people all over the web tweeting paintings of Mandela, etc., which seems very strange and slightly patronising, to me. Just as they are offended on behalf of other people, they celebrate on behalf of other people.

South Africa seems to have gone totally berserk since Apartheid ended. Twenty-five per cent of its people are unemployed, there are more than 50 murders per day and at least 500,000 rapes are committed each year, with one in four African men openly admitting to being rapists. White people, of course, are particularly victimised in South Africa, with more than 3,000 farmers having been murdered, the government doing little about this. If you had only watched the BBC, you would not even know that any of this was happening, but there are other sources.

As we have said before, on current evidence, it seems that if they really want to help these countries, what liberals should be arguing for is western re-colonisation - and all of them going over and "trying to help" is actually colonisation in a soft sense (though they often come a cropper). I believe I am right in the saying that the countries that were colonised are doing far better than those that were not, even though they have not moved on very much from the point when the colonisation ended.

p.s. They allowed comments on this article. Top one quite amusing:

"Didn't Mandela want Africa for Africans? What a racist!"
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Well, shame on this forum ...

Postby Vincent » 08 Dec 2013, 05:15

... so much for ...
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Re: Well, shame on this forum ...

Postby Caleb » 08 Dec 2013, 06:41

Vincent wrote:... so much for free speech and decency. After 48 hours no one has challenged the preposterous assertions embodied under the title "Nelson Mandela's failed legacy".


Including you, I see, since you've provided a number of straw men and emotive assertions, and in other places completely missed my point regarding the long view of history and the success or failure of nation building.

It's not just mean-spirited, ungracious and in bad taste. I'm trying to interpret Caleb's post as something other than approval of South African apartheid and the apparatus which kept in place the dictatorship of the few: but not succeeding.
There has been a mass exodus of the middle class to any countries that will take them.

"Oh dear, apartheid helped keep them in comfort. Now who cares about them? These are the ones we should pity," he implies.


Of course, one must always be either for something or its opposite, or when it comes to PC issues -- never better embodied than with Jesus Christ, I mean Nelson Mandela -- one must always be either for something or for something.

There could be subtle nuance in saying that South Africa then was bad and South Africa now is bad, and that the situation now was completely predictable with a reading of history regarding the outcome of other revolutions. To suggest any kind of scepticism regarding the holy would make me a BAD PERSON!!! though.

The point about the middle class is that they are to a functioning society as frogs are to an ecosystem: a pretty good indicator of the health of that system precisely because they exist under a fairly fragile set of conditions.

That the middle class were white has nothing to do with this, despite that seemingly being the crux of where your accusations of racism seem to be coming from. We might look at the pogroms and Holocaust against Jews as an example, we might look at the exodus of the Persian middle class during the Iranian Revolution, or the exodus of various ethnic groups (South Asians, Jews, etc.) from many parts of Africa (e.g. Uganda) during de-colonialisation, or the way that the mercantile Chinese in South East Asia are traditionally the whipping boy during any riots there and the destruction their exodus from said communities causes in the aftermath. We might even look at the exodus of Korean businessmen from parts of Los Angeles during the L.A. Riots for more evidence of what happens when you destroy the middle class in a community or nation. We could look at Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. I could just keep throwing these at you. You though, chose to focus on the whiteness or blackness of the respective groups or figures in this particular example though, rather than my economic and political argument, despite me not bringing race into it.

No one inside or outside South Africa, as far as I know--not even Nelson Mandela--expected that democracy could be installed and apartheid removed without an armed struggle: an armed struggle against an armed tyranny.


But of course! Yesterday's terrorists are today's freedom fighters and all that. Yasser Arafat also won a Nobel Prize. Your point is?

If you want to see "failed", see Iraq, Libya, Syria, then compare. South Africa got rid of apartheid, took no bloody revenge on the perpetrators, but peace and reconciliation. And as for its murder rate, unemployment, etc, you want to blame the man who became President for five years at the age of 77, after 27 years in prison. with hard labour thrown in.


At what point did I mention those other nations. They are also failed states. There are reliable stats collected on homicides, rapes, etc. in South Africa. These cannot be disputed. There hasn't been peace and reconciliation though, as evidenced by all of the white farmers who have been killed. It's also worth noting that those other members of society who were not beneficiaries of Apartheid -- Asians, Cape Coloureds, Bushmen, etc. -- are not exactly doing brilliantly now either.

Your second point about blaming Mandela is, again, where you completely missed my broader point about the grand sweep of history and lauding people as founding fathers of their nations. If Nelson Mandela were just another guy, I probably would not have even mentioned him. He is being touted as the most significant figure of the 20th century though. I think there would be various better candidates, personally. Regardless, the point is that if people are going to laud someone as the Man of the Century, MAN OF THE CENTURY!!! then they'd better have a pretty watertight argument, and it's hilarious to me that people would feign such complete outrage at such false idols being torn down. Really, despite Churchill (someone I don't even like, but whom I can acknowledge as colossal in stature), we get Mandela? If we must choose a little man who founded a nation state, why not Kemal Ataturk or Lee Kuan Yew?

By analogy, Nelson Mandela is an engineer who drew a beautiful bridge that collapsed the first time anyone drove a car on it. He is a "good parent" whose children run amok when not in his sight. As I pointed out in my original post, to consider that one has a great legacy, one must actually have a great legacy. This is why we might say that someone like Sun Yat Sen also did not have a great legacy, despite being the founding father of a nation that threw off "foreign" (white South Africans were/are indeed South African, not foreign, but that does not matter in this argument) imperialism. That Sun Yat Sen was succeeded by Chiang Kai Shek and Mao Zedong who then tore the country apart, and who then ushered in the White Terror and the Cultural Revolution, respectively, taints his legacy in a similar manner. Another example might be that despite Simon Bolivar, much of South America has spent the past two centuries lurching from one extreme to another, and we can trace Hugo Chavez directly back as the unintended consequence of Simon Bolivar's failed legacy in that respect.

I could go on, talk about how the Balkans collapsed into genocide after the end of communist rule and much besides. Mandela's failed legacy, eh?


Indeed, you could go on about the Balkans, and no one would probably criticise you for claiming that much of the Balkans turned into failed states (though Slovenia seemed to escape relatively unscathed). Yugoslavia did suffer from the cult and force of personality that surrounded Tito that did keep that country under control, but predictably collapsed after his death. That would be to reiterate my argument though, so I'm not sure how that would help your point.

There's no rational argument against a display of naked racism.


That would be good if I'd actually criticised Mandela on the basis that he is black. There's no rational argument against a display of naked irrationality though.

Enough. I've been a fool to mix in this company.


That would be a shame. No one is trying to persecute you here.
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Re: Nelson Mandela's Failed Legacy

Postby Mike » 08 Dec 2013, 07:00

Well, before this develops into a flame war, a few comments:

(1) As a rule I agree with Vincent that there is a period during which common decency dictates moderation in one's comments regarding a deceased figure. This is a public forum, don't forget. Many here were up in arms about the demonisation of Margaret Thatcher after her death largely for that very reason, so we should be consistent here.

(2) South Africa may be suffering from some problems but it has not become Zimbabwe, which was the knee-jerk prediction of every cynic in the world circa 1994. This was partly, I think, because Mandela was originally neither a communist nor an advocate of armed rebellion; he was (depending on your view) either driven into the arms of, or a reluctant ally of, the South African communists in the end, and his period as the head of Umkhonto we Sizwe will always be something of a blot on his escutcheon. But the point is, he managed a transition to majority rule without either mass collectivisation or large-scale violence, and for that, given the historical context, he deserves great commendation.

(3) Vincent, I hope you reconsider and stick around. I've enjoyed your posts so far.
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Re: Nelson Mandela's Failed Legacy

Postby Caleb » 08 Dec 2013, 22:38

Mike:

1) Margaret Thatcher was never a member of a terrorist organisation, as far as I know. It doesn't matter that Mandela was later elected. So were Fatah and Hamas. In this respect, Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela are poles apart. Mandela should be put in the same category as Gerry Adams or Yasser Arafat, neither of whom I have, or will, shed tears over.

2) South Africa may not have become Zimbabwe, but its statistics on rape and murder are alarming, and we'd be splitting hairs in saying whether it is a failed state or not. Actually, South Africa has a higher homicide rate at 31.8 per 100,000 inhabitants than Zimbabwe at 14.3. As reference points, the U.K. is at 1.2 and the U.S. is at 4.7.

Here is another interesting bit of information. Note that the two countries in question are not very different at all.
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Re: Nelson Mandela's Failed Legacy

Postby Gavin » 08 Dec 2013, 23:37

Mike wrote:This is a public forum, don't forget.


I think we all know this is a public forum when we write on the web. I'm not sure how that's relevant unless we're breaking laws (mind you, you never know when you're breaking laws on these topics now, at least in the UK!).

Mike wrote:Many here were up in arms about the demonisation of Margaret Thatcher after her death largely for that very reason, so we should be consistent here.


I take your point that there should be decency, but I think we were objecting to people who were openly celebrating the death of Margaret Thatcher, saying they wanted to have parties and dance on her grave, and much worse. I don't think there's much danger of anyone doing that here about Mandela. I think we were also objecting to young people hating her so much when they didn't even understand her policies. Even TD saw fit to analyse and criticise Mrs Thatcher's legacy soon after she died.

Mike wrote:Mandela was originally neither a communist nor an advocate of armed rebellion; he was (depending on your view) either driven into the arms of, or a reluctant ally of, the South African communists in the end


I don't know much about this, but many communists were originally not communists, and I noticed Fjordman tweet that an insider has said:

"Nelson Mandela was not only a member of the then underground South African Communist Party, but was also a member of our party’s central committee."


Not sure how reluctant that was, then. But Mandela did fight for his own people and their right to dominate and run their own country. That's where things seem to get a bit awkward for the Left with regard to English situation, since they apparently see him as flawless.

Maybe TD will write a piece on Mandela. I would guess it will be broadly favourable but with some criticism too.
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Re: Nelson Mandela's Failed Legacy

Postby Mike » 09 Dec 2013, 00:04

Caleb wrote:Mike:

1) Margaret Thatcher was never a member of a terrorist organisation, as far as I know. It doesn't matter that Mandela was later elected. So were Fatah and Hamas. In this respect, Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela are poles apart. Mandela should be put in the same category as Gerry Adams or Yasser Arafat, neither of whom I have, or will, shed tears over.


Now I think this is a little disingenuous. Postwar England is a tad different from apartheid South Africa, and I think if you look at the record of quasi-legal government repression and violence during that period (Sharpeville et al.) compared with whatever trouble Umkhonto we Sizwe caused, the former absolutely dwarfs the latter. Terrorism is a broad term, but I think there are levels and degrees. Umkhonto we Sizwe was hardly Al-Qaeda. And as I've already noted, it was a blot on his record (and one which his western worshippers have of course airbrushed from his history), but it doesn't outweigh his genuine achievements post-1994 for my money.

Caleb wrote:2) South Africa may not have become Zimbabwe, but its statistics on rape and murder are alarming, and we'd be splitting hairs in saying whether it is a failed state or not. Actually, South Africa has a higher homicide rate at 31.8 per 100,000 inhabitants than Zimbabwe at 14.3. As reference points, the U.K. is at 1.2 and the U.S. is at 4.7.

Here is another interesting bit of information. Note that the two countries in question are not very different at all.


No-one is denying there are huge social problems, but South Africa at least did not go down the road of six-figure inflation and complete devastation of the middle class; quite the opposite. And yet, I repeat, that was the prediction of very large numbers of people at the time. To manage the transition to majority rule the way Mandela did, given all the insatiable hatreds simmering beneath the surface on both sides (not to mention the ongoing struggles between the different tribal groups), was an achievement which it's very easy to belittle in hindsight.

As for that Steve Sailer link, one has to be realistic. Do you think all the infant mortality and life expectancy figures were being reported properly during the apartheid era, when South Africa was an international pariah?

Gavin wrote:I think we all know this is a public forum when we write on the web. I'm not sure how that's relevant unless we're breaking laws (mind you, you never know when you're breaking laws on these topics now, at least in the UK!).


No, I'm not talking legality, just courtesy. Of course no-one's talking about dancing on Mandela's grave, but it's always been my view that you grant a deceased public figure a reasonable period, partly for family reasons, before delving too much into the legacy. I'm not keen on all the fawning pieces that have appeared in the media about Mandela either, in which there's been some screaming hypocrisy in many cases.

Maybe TD will write a piece on Mandela. I would guess it will be broadly favourable but with some criticism too.


I would imagine so. The only time I remember him actually writing about Mandela, he simply said that he was not a saint, but that he (TD) could acknowledge his virtues, among which (if I remember rightly) he mentioned "a talent for conciliation".
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Re: Nelson Mandela's Failed Legacy

Postby Caleb » 10 Dec 2013, 01:08

Mike wrote:Now I think this is a little disingenuous. Postwar England is a tad different from apartheid South Africa, and I think if you look at the record of quasi-legal government repression and violence during that period (Sharpeville et al.) compared with whatever trouble Umkhonto we Sizwe caused, the former absolutely dwarfs the latter. Terrorism is a broad term, but I think there are levels and degrees. Umkhonto we Sizwe was hardly Al-Qaeda. And as I've already noted, it was a blot on his record (and one which his western worshippers have of course airbrushed from his history), but it doesn't outweigh his genuine achievements post-1994 for my money.


I see your point, but I disagree.

No-one is denying there are huge social problems, but South Africa at least did not go down the road of six-figure inflation and complete devastation of the middle class; quite the opposite. And yet, I repeat, that was the prediction of very large numbers of people at the time. To manage the transition to majority rule the way Mandela did, given all the insatiable hatreds simmering beneath the surface on both sides (not to mention the ongoing struggles between the different tribal groups), was an achievement which it's very easy to belittle in hindsight.


Using Zimbabwe as the yardstick is off the mark, I think. It's like saying that Indonesia wasn't that bad because it didn't become Cambodia.

Something like 20% of the white middle class has disappeared from South Africa in that time. Using that Google tool, you can also do some interesting things. For example, this. (You can play around with the inputs there.)

As for that Steve Sailer link, one has to be realistic. Do you think all the infant mortality and life expectancy figures were being reported properly during the apartheid era, when South Africa was an international pariah?


So, again, I used that tool and came up with this. South Africa's stats don't seem out of line with what one would expect. It basically moved in parallel with Sub-Saharan Africa, but was above the average (because it was more developed). Botswana, as I would have expected, slightly out-performed it until getting crushed (presumably) by AIDS. Not coincidentally, this is also the point at which North Africa and the Middle East broke away, which I would also have expected due to their more chaste societies and also their increased living standards due to oil.
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Re: Nelson Mandela's Failed Legacy

Postby Mike » 10 Dec 2013, 09:26

Caleb wrote:Using Zimbabwe as the yardstick is off the mark, I think. It's like saying that Indonesia wasn't that bad because it didn't become Cambodia.


To my mind it's the perfect yardstick, because the situations are highly analogous - a move to majority rule after a period of quasi-apartheid (although Ian Smith was not remotely as bad as the successive Afrikaner governments, however much he became a moral punchbag for the trendy British left in the 60s and 70s), under a leader who had allied himself closely with Havana and/or Moscow and appeared likely to go communist (or at the very least engage in mass collectivisation) in the aftermath. Mugabe did, Mandela didn't. OK, the collapse of the Soviet bloc may have steered Mandela away from that course, but there were plenty, especially within his own party, who were advocating it.

Re the links you gave, interesting info but to be honest I'm still sceptical about any pre-mid-nineties figures for South Africa, for obvious reasons. A striking thing for me is that a lot of what is reported in the press vis-a-vis the failures of post-apartheid South Africa, in particular the hand-wringing over the ongoing disparities in wealth, echo what is also reported about India. Now, I know the histories are completely different, and of course the Indians are a long way ahead at the moment, but India is seen as a nascent economic powerhouse while South Africa is written off (in places) as almost a failed state, not that I think a failed state would have been capable of staging the football World Cup, for one thing.

I'm rambling a bit: my point is that a superficially gross disparity in wealth, in a non-western country, is historically not too bad a sign in the longer term. Foreign investors certainly aren't avoiding South Africa just yet. For my money this is what a lot of the recent fussing over things like the much-hyped Gini coefficient tends to ignore: inequality in a society is in many cases a necessary stage, as long as it doesn't become too entrenched.
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To Caleb in particular

Postby Vincent » 10 Dec 2013, 14:50

(with thanks also to encouragement from Mike and Elliott)

I owed you a response ...
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Re: Nelson Mandela's Failed Legacy

Postby Jonathan » 12 Dec 2013, 10:28

I make no claims to being particularly knowledgeable about South Africa; but the country moved from being dominated by an ethnic minority, to being controlled by a government elected by the majority; and whatever the social problems of modern South Africa, this was accomplished without a civil war and without a bloodbath.

A few other countries in the Middle East moved from being dominated by a minority to being controlled by the majority - namely, Iraq (Sunni --> Shiite), Syria (Alawi --> Sunni) and in the more distant past, Lebanon (Maronite --> Sunni).

Admittedly, all these examples are a bit simplistic, and none are a perfect match for South Africa (Syria is best, perhaps); but if Mandela managed the transition without creating a Syria, then perhaps he should not be excessively criticized for not creating a Switzerland.
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Re: Nelson Mandela's Failed Legacy

Postby Gavin » 12 Dec 2013, 20:18

I heard on the news this morning that the South Africans allowed a self-confessed violent schizophrenic to stand beside the heads of state, including President Obama, as a supposed sign language translator. At least I think I did - it sounds too incredible to be true!
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Re: Nelson Mandela's Failed Legacy

Postby Mike » 20 Dec 2013, 11:32

A number of interesting articles on Mandela's history and legacy have appeared of late, taking a longer and more considered view. One well worth reading is this, from spiked. TD has also weighed in, by the way, making some of the same points in condensed form, but with a crucial distinction, which is actually at the heart of my disagreement with Caleb above:

It does not seem to me fair, however, to blame Mandela for the fact that liberation has left many of the liberated worse off than they were before they were liberated. Liberation has the nasty habit of doing precisely that, and the circumstances in South Africa were particularly inauspicious for a happy liberation. All in all it could have been considerably worse. In the event the compromise—political without economic reform, co-option of a few into the elite, lizard-skin shoes for the truly important—was about the best that could be hoped for, and Mandela fit the bill admirably.
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Re: Nelson Mandela's Failed Legacy

Postby Elliott » 27 Dec 2013, 23:13

I have not posted anything in this thread so far because I really haven't known what to think about Mandela. However, as the weeks pass and things are digested, I am a bit more confident in my views of the man.

First of all, it's obvious that Mandela had an evil side - planting bombs, necklacing, advocating cutting off informants' noses, etc. - but there is the fact that he was, from his point of view, fighting against an enemy that was much stronger and couldn't be combated with normal methods. Terrorism was a desperate and vicious measure, and it probably seemed the only option even though, ultimately, it was easily crushed and achieved nothing beyond bloodshed. The only way to defeat the SA government was the way it eventually was defeated, and without Mandela's input: through cultural change over a matter of decades, utilising agitators around the West to push for change. (It seems to me that, ultimately, black South Africans were freed, not by themselves, but by white people.)

Ineffectual, bland and probably not that bright, Mandela seems to have been largely led by (white) Communists. Latterly, he has become a cuddly figurehead into which the various self-loathings of white people are poured and focused. He's the perfect victim because we have made it so easy for ourselves to forget about the bad things he did, and therefore he is nothing but a victim, and moreover one who is "really nice about it".

But, if we ignore that and concentrate on the man himself, he was definitely a terrorist (the mitigation being that, from his perspective, terrorism would have seemed like the only viable option) and thereafter, to agree with Caleb, a fairly ineffectual president (the mitigation being that he was dealing with an extremely turbulent country featuring numerous antagonistic groups and approximately 40m blacks). I tend to agree with those who say that, though Mandela wasn't a very successful president, he probably did well to merely prevent an orgy of bloodshed, and maybe we should be glad he managed that - unless we seriously believe that we can hold the populace of South Africa to the same standards that we would expect of, say, the populace of Holland.

I am not a massive fan of Stefan Molyneux, but here he provides a 20-minute talk about Mandela which is interesting and, I think, fairly even-handed:


The curious might also want to listen to this podcast, an extended interview with SA "activist" Dan Roodt. (I don't know how reliable a witness he is, but I expect the historical facts he mentions could be disputed easily if they were false.)
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