Who is Your Enemy?

Enemiesby Anniel3/18/15
Our family has been undergoing an entire shift in thought for the past month as we have tried to understand what it is to have “near enemies” and what that means in life. If you look up the term “near enemies” you will be referred to a Buddhist philosophy based on the premise that you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer. However, there is a branch of psychology which warns of “near enemies” in a very different sense. These are the ones you don’t want near at all, and should flee from, if at all possible, and sometimes it is not. These are the ones we have been analyzing and attempting to identify.

The Cruelest Month, is a book by Canadian author Louise Penny, the third in her brilliant series about Chief Inspector Gamache. In a conversation with a psychologist during a murder investigation, Inspector Gamache is taught the psychological concept of “near enemies.” The psychologist tells Gaumache that there are two emotions that, while they may look the same, are really the opposite, so that you have one healthy and one sick, twisted emotion. She tells him that there are three couplings. They are:

1. Pity vs. Compassion. If you pity someone, you feel superior to them. If you have compassion you feel empathy. You see the stricken person as equal to you. Compassion is a nobler emotion, but pity leaves no room for true compassion.

2. Attachment Masquerades as Love. Most parents love their children enough to do right by them. They rear them to be independent, to follow their own dreams, to marry, have children of their own, to do what makes them happy. Others, usually mothers, try to live through their children, cling to them, stifle them. Manipulate, guilt-trip and cripple them emotionally. They want always to be attached to their children. In any intimate relationship love wants what is best for others. Attachment takes hostages.

3. Equanimity vs. Indifference. The psychologist says that this is the most pernicious and hardest to spot of the three couplings. Equanimity is a balance of emotion. A person may face an unprecedented tragedy in their life and be seriously disturbed, but they adjust and are courageous enough to overcome the problem. Another person may seem to have the same sorrow and acceptance, when in reality they are indifferent because they have no genuine feelings in the situation. They are psychopaths without feeling for others. It’s important to know the difference.

It was reading this book that led our family on a chase to figure out what or who our near enemies really are. Are there only three couplings, or three manifestations as set out to Inspector Gamache? We decided that every good emotion probably has a counterfeit. After a lot of thought and searching we found a blog listing of one more very interesting coupling:

Sympathetic Joy vs. Comparison. Sympathetic joy would be having joy for something another person has received praise for or accomplished. The comparison aspect would be being miffed because you didn’t also receive the praise for your accomplishments.

Then we decided that the following three couplings should be considered as part of our thinking:

Free Speech vs. Political Correctness
Education vs. Common Core
Self-Respect vs. Self-Esteem

It is usually not hard to spot someone who hates you, but you may not recognize the enemy if they come in the name of a twisted love, or if they politically claim to want what’s best for you.

I would like to focus on the last item, self-respect vs. self esteem for the next part of our journey. I have felt for some time that the cult of self-esteem has done more to harm to children and parents, to whole families, than any other evil we have embraced.

We had three young children when self-esteem first began to be preached and both my husband and I were unaware of its growing popularity. One evening we took our three fairly well-behaved young children out to dinner. Another couple came in with a little girl about 18 months old, and were seated across the aisle from us.

The parents put the child on a booster seat, which she promptly with deliberation tipped off the chair. She got down and began wandering all over the place, a danger to everyone. For the next hour all her mother did to correct her was whine, “Sweetheart please come back and sit down, mommy would be so proud of you.” The waitress tripped over the child and spilled hot coffee. The booster seat was dragged out and had to be picked up countless times. The mother kept whining how “proud” she would be if the child would sit down. If she did by chance sit down her mother told her how “proud” she was of her. It was a nauseating spectacle, and the mother’s whiny voice was cringe inducing. The husband sat like a lump.

Our children watched open-mouthed at such shenanigans, and when the family left, our oldest son turned to us and asked why the parents hadn’t made the child sit in her seat and behave. Since this was my first experience with the self-esteem movement I had no clue. Since then I have watched in horror as parents have abdicated their responsibilities as parents, choosing instead to let their kids rule the roost.

I have so much wanted to say that children are little animals who need to be tamed, and I do believe that. Are they fresh and pure when they come to us, yes, but think about what they need to learn to become fully civilized human beings. They need to be toilet trained, to learn to bathe, dress and feed themselves, to speak and reason, to obey instructions, and learn to provide for their own needs. All children everywhere must learn all the nuances of their own culture. As they grow, they need to work and contribute to their families. They need to gain self-respect on their way to becoming competent adults who can pass civilized behavior on to their own children.

I have read several reports lately about the deleterious effects of the “self-esteem” movement. We cripple our children when we begin praising them all the time and not holding them accountable for their actions as they grow up. When every child gets a trophy and never loses, the children never learn how to face their own problems or to take care of their own needs. Nor do they learn to cope with disappointment, failure and loss. We all lose when children never face natural consequences and the lessons learned from failure. We are destroying a whole generation of children as a result of not recognizing a “near enemy.”

On June 7, 2011, Therapist Lorrie Gottlieb wrote an article published in Atlantic magazine about what happens to children who have every whim fulfilled, when they grow up and are afraid of everything in their lives. Some are practically unable to function at all. But the article fails to address the issue of parents who are themselves so worried about harming their children’s self-esteem they become afraid of their own children. So they teach them nothing of lasting value and destroy their own self-respect at the same time.

After our family discussions reached this point, someone asked the question, how does a parent become an enemy in the first place and does the enmity always manifest itself in the same way?

I think mothers, especially, fall into many traps along the way because they are so enthralled with the new life entrusted to them, and they are responsible for its safety and protection. Learning to guide a child to an independent life can be frightening, so total control of everything the child does can become an unhealthy obsession. Other mothers want their children to not be hurt so they never say “no”, clean up their messes and never hold them accountable for anything. And, frankly, sometimes it’s just easier to say “No, you might get hurt or dirty, or whatever,” so it becomes a habit. The adult can do things faster and easier and they praise children and clap their hands for small things that make no demands.

We were fortunate because our first child was often wiser than we. We live about half a mile from a busy road which was frequented by gravel trucks. Our son asked repeatedly if he could walk to Dimond Blvd. and we said, “No, because it’s dangerous.” One day at dinner he informed us that he would soon be starting school and needed to learn to walk to Dimond Blvd. by himself to catch the school bus. Who could argue with that? He was always one or two steps ahead of us in reasoning. He was 11 the first time he flew away to Johns Hopkins University for what he called “Nerd Camp.” I only cried the first time. He grew up fast and his siblings benefitted.

Our next serious family discussion on near enemies was about how often each of us had been, or maybe still was, a near enemy. We all tried rigorously to be honest about ourselves and things we had done and why we did them. Sometimes we had even lied to our loved ones because we selfishly wanted what we wanted, period. Sometimes lying was easier than telling the truth. Sometimes we were hurt and wanted to “get even.” Sometimes we were just being mean because we felt like it. Talk about baring our souls.

But we also had to acknowledge that sometimes we needed to get away, just for a little while, and any excuse would do as a protective cover, even if it meant becoming an enemy for awhile.

A near enemy could be anyone. A mother, father, spouse, lover, sibling or friend, a child, counselor, pastor or politician. They are the people seeking to care for you and guide you for “your own good.” They are dangerous because they may even believe themselves to be doing good, all the while making you weak, fearful and dependent. If you fail to recognize the reality of the enmity they bring, you can be harmed by their very presence.

Remember to include yourself on your list of enemies. How many times have you let fear or laziness stop you from accomplishment? You and I are often our own worst enemies.

After writing this I have wondered if the simple answer to the whole problem of near enemies is centered on love, real, active caring for another soul. No artifice, no desire or lies, no wish for control, just love and doing what is right for the other. Sometimes it means saying, “No, stay in your own country – get a job – clean up after yourself – obey the law – pay your own bills – and, no I will not vote for you.” • (3583 views)

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37 Responses to Who is Your Enemy?

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    This is a superb article. The concept of emotions and concepts, and counterfeits that seem like them, seems very useful to me. I would say, though, that free speech and political correctness are genuine opposites rather than a good concept and its evil counterfeit.

    I don’t know if the problem with that infant was a result of the self-esteem movement (that seems a bit young for it, though admittedly I don’t know much about modern parenting techniques), but it certainly reflected a severe lack of discipline.

    • Anniel says:

      Timothy, Not disciplining your children is the first step in supposedly engendering self-esteem. You don’t want to destroy their natures. So you never, ever stop what they want to do. There are other things, such as praise for whatever the child does, no matter how inconsequential. You cannot believe how coddled and praised these kids are.

      You and I may think of free speech and PC as opposites, but what of the millions around us who accept PC as truth, and the politicians who lie to them and they think of them as their saviors. For those people both the PC and the politicians are near enemies.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    This is something everyone should read. There are so many good points in it that I will only comment on a few.

    At the root of many of our problems is simple dishonesty.

    Knowing the human condition, I have always allowed for dishonesty from others. The real trouble comes when a person begins to believe his own lies.

    Your observations about children being little animals needing to be tamed is a nicer way of saying, “children must have civilization beat into them” which is what I have, only slightly tongue in cheek, been saying for forty years.

    I think one of the best things a young man can do is get away from his home for an extended period of time. I studied in Europe and was away for over a year. It was the best thing I ever did. Mothers will, sometimes, love you to death. (Smother/sufficate you in their love.)

    I think the greatest damage done by the “self-esteem” movement is to create more psychopathic little monsters (sometimes known as libertarians) whose ignorance is only exceeded by their arrogance.

    Self-esteem is particularly dangerous when displayed by ignorant and stupid people. In the past, life taught these people that they were not little gods who knew everything. As a result, they didn’t think they knew everything and might listen to others who were more experienced or intelligent. Today, too many of these fools believe they are intelligent and know as much, or more, about everything as anyone else. Really, ignorance and arrogance are a dangerous package, and we have it is spades today.

    • Anniel says:

      Master Kung Fu, Maybe ignorance and arrogance are two sides of the same coin and impossible to separate after a certain point. They are near enemies of truth because they fool so many credulous people.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Maybe ignorance and arrogance are two sides of the same coin and impossible to separate after a certain point. They are near enemies of truth because they fool so many credulous people

        Ain’t it the truth.

    • Untermensch says:

      Interesting. I self-describe myself as a libertarian (or rather, as a “classical liberal”, which is perhaps an important nuance) precisely because I believe the philosophy, if taken seriously, forces one to take responsibility for one’s actions. The philosophy tells me that no-one else is to blame for me, so I had better take responsibility for myself rather than expecting the government, a church, or any other institution to pick up the pieces. In my own personal outlook and behavior, I think one could safely describe me as quite conservative (at least when I am living up to my ideals), but for me libertarianism is all about skepticism towards those who wish to wield power (invariably “for your own good”), which is what Annie seems to be talking about here.

      An undisciplined psychopathic monster would, at the very least, fail the one absolute tenant of libertarian thought: the non-aggression principle. Since, in libertarian thought, fraud and deception are a form of aggression in that they harm another person, I don’t see how the psychopathic monster could be considered libertarian in any real sense.

      I see “libertarians” denigrated quite regularly here, but I often wonder what is meant by that label for those here. Certainly there are those who self-describe as such simply because they want to give the finger to any rules. (Of course such individuals can be found in any movement, and the more cleverly deceptive they are, the more likely they are to insert themselves “under deep cover” in some other movement. Only the crudely stupid ones identify themselves as libertarians under the notion that they are justified in bad actions to others by the philosophy.) But the reasons I am attracted to libertarian philosophy boil down to my firm belief that those in power are not to be trusted to do the right thing.

      Now that I am out of the closet as a libertarian, maybe I’ll be looked at somewhat askance…

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I see “libertarians” denigrated quite regularly here, but I often wonder what is meant by that label for those here.

        Untermensch, you sound like one of those good conservatives that Russell Kirk wrote about when he wrote:

        “But surely, surely I must be misrepresenting the breed? Don’t I know self-proclaimed libertarians who are kindly old gentlemen, God-fearing, patriotic, chaste, well endowed with the good of fortune? Yes, I do know such. They are the people who through misapprehension put up the cash for the fantastics. Such gentlemen call themselves “libertarians” merely because they believe in personal freedom, and do not understand to what extravagances they lend their names by subsidizing doctrinaire “libertarian” causes and publications. If a person describes himself as “libertarian” because he believes in an enduring moral order, the Constitution of the United States, free enterprise, and old American ways of life—why, actually he is a conservative with imperfect understanding of the general terms of politics.

        With all due respect, what you believe in more aligns itself with conservatism or “classical liberalism,” if you wish. But only a cursory look at libertarianism will likely have one come away with a good impression of it.


        + Skeptical of government. Check

        One thing you said that is very very telling:

        The philosophy tells me that no-one else is to blame for me, so I had better take responsibility for myself rather than expecting the government, a church, or any other institution to pick up the pieces.


        + Self-responsibility. Check

        The difference in libertarians is that, at heart, they are anarchists. The see any and all restraints by government as some kind of insult to their liberty. But it is “ordered liberty” that is the order of the day. There must be some control on human actions. This is precisely the dividing line Annie is talking about in her article. What caught my eye most of all was her hilarious recounting of that scene with the toddler in the restaurant.

        She had encountered parents who are raising their child under the paradigm that people are basically good. Yes, “self esteem” does intersect this. But what is means is “Don’t ruin their natural goodness with paternalism and forcing your own values on them for, after all, they will discover what is good for themselves quite naturally.”

        Libertarians are of this naive and destructive bent as well. They believe that people are basically good and, quite like the Left, think that it is some external thing (government for libertarians, capitalism for the left) that bends them. Get rid of most government, and paradise would break out.

        Libertarians masquerade a lot of bad philosophy under their very loud and self-declared love of liberty. But that is more or less a smokescreen for their true philosophy which is more libertine than anything else. Mr. Kung is right to include them in the uncivilized “little monsters” that are a problem in our society now because of an emphasis on self-esteem and other beliefs wherein civilization isn’t figuratively beaten into them. As Thomas Sowell wisely noted (very similar to what Mr. Kung said):

        “Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.”

        Indeed, those in power (particularly right now) cannot be trusted to do the right thing. But the solution is not anarchy, to be anti-government. And that, in essence, is all that libertarians have…tear it down. Indeed, I agree with them that a lot of stuff needs to be torn down. Give us another Calvin Coolidge who would cut government by 40% or more. Unfortunately most libertarians are like the Left….they’re indiscriminate in what they would tear down, never asking themselves if that wall is there for a good purpose in the first place. And the wall they want brought down above all else is that wall the makes any and all drugs illegal. This shows you where they are actually coming from.

        My own advice, Untermensch, is to look at who libertarians actually are, not your idealized version of them. You sound just like a normal American who’s had enough. And I’m right there with you. But we are Americans, not kooks. And I have met very few libertarians who weren’t to-the-core kooky in their ideas. They have no answers for what ails us (as Rand Paul clearly shows) because their philosophy is confused and contradictory (and often just downright dishonest) to begin with.

        You can call yourself whatever you’d like and I’ll give you due respect because you are a thoughtful person. But I think you need to realize that by forwarding libertarianism as some normal thing, you are helping a cause that is noxious, at best.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I think Brad has addressed your post very well. And although there is a little tongue-in-cheek aspect to the way we address libertarians here at ST, it is only a very little.

        It may be overkill, but if you would really like to get an idea of the differences between conservatives and libertarians, please read the below article which was published some time back on ST. The comments following the article are just as interesting.


      • Timothy Lane says:

        As one who is sympathetic to libertarian philosophy, I will note that there’s a difference between the small number of genuine libertarians and the larger number who are libertinists, and the latter have severely corrupted the former. I saw this when the editor of a libertarian SF journal (and a very good writer on the topic in general) said that he always voted Democratic because of their reliable support for abortion.

  3. Rosalys says:

    I can’t think of one thing in your wonderful article to criticize. (Even the comments thus far are great.) It is convicting, however. Maybe first on the agenda should be some self examination! Selfishness, dishonesty, a lack of real love (seeking what is best for another) – these are all problems which have their root in human nature, that same human nature which we are so afraid of destroying. Some stuff needs to die, really.

    Also of interest, Annie, is your mention of Daddy sitting like a lump. Another symptom of the feminized society.

    I think the “You-Can’t-Love-Others-Unless-You-Love-Yourself-First” movement probably grew out of the Self-Esteem movement as the logical next progressive step in destroying Western civilization, as well as Christianity. It is of course a world view which is diametrically opposed to what Christ taught! Pretty much everything that the Left is telling us is the right thing to do is the exact opposite of what Christ tells us to do. Even the “nice” stuff is usually a of Biblical concept twisted into another shape. We are truly living in an age where we must “beware when good is called evil, and evil, good.”

    • Anniel says:

      What a woven web we have out there. Navigating can be time consuming. I think you are right about even the scriptures being twisted out of shape.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Also of interest, Annie, is your mention of Daddy sitting like a lump. Another symptom of the feminized society.

      Ditto, Rosalys. For me that was the other main take-away from Annie’s anecdote. By and large, men are the law-givers, women are the nurturers. That’s likely why so many women buy into this “Progressive” ideology that puts “compassion” and “self-esteem” above all other considerations (and often to the exclusion of all other considerations).

      Women, just like an engine without out an internal governor, will spin out of control if mere nurturance or emotion is not checked by other factors — factors that are often of the masculine influence. Only when the male has been sufficiently demonized, emasculated, and feminized will he sit there dumbly at the table and ignore the obvious need to lay down some rules for little Johnny.

      On the other hand, neither do we want a Spartan society where men are brutalized and violence is the norm. Both sexes are needed, along with a guiding philosophy more solid than the vapid ideas of the Left, including the idea that little Johnny is good, by nature, and we mustn’t mess him up with a bunch of constraints and rules that will just get in the way of his wholesome and natural “self-discovery.” And it’s not that self-discovery isn’t a part of life. But not in regards to a toddler crawling or walking around a restaurant unattended.

      The Left has overturned all this, and now you have parents (when a child actually does have two parents) who are nearly clueless about what it takes to raise a child. All I can say is, be prepared to buy bigger locks on your doors, for the little monsters are coming. They are growing up. We have one of these little monsters as president right now. Such types are highly destructive.

  4. Bell Phillips says:

    I went to Johns Hopkins nerd camp in 1984 when I was 12. It was a great experience. I wish my family had the money for me to go back, but I only went once.

    I took algebra and when came back to school in the fall, my regular school didn’t have any appropriate math class for me to take – so I got permission to enroll in a college math class at night, just a week or two before I turned 13. I took a lot of other classes between then and getting out of high school. I was quite the curiosity for a while.

    • Bell Phillips says:

      And I still call it “nerd camp” anytime I have occasion to tell someone my life story.

      • Anniel says:

        Bell, My son, who is presently living in Berlin, may have been at Nerd Camp the same year you were. I’ll check with him and see. We were fortunate that he got to go so many places like CTY. I worried a little after he told me some of the things he did. One year he was at Huntington Beach in California and got caught by a rogue wave, then washed out to sea and up on a rocky headland before getting out. The rocks tore him up pretty good. Probably a good thing I only later saw his scars or I might have been tempted to keep him protected at home.

        • Bell Phillips says:

          Bell Phillips isn’t my real name. If there is a way to send you a private message, I can tell you what it is, though.

          I remember a few things about the people I met there, but very few names. Almost thirty-one years is a long time.

        • Rosalys says:

          There are a few “bucket list” items that my son has told me he wants to do. I told him he is NOT to let me know before hand. He may tell me the stories of his derring do AFTER his safe landing!

          • Anniel says:

            Those heart-stopping moments should only come later when moms know all is safe. One of my sons had a problem that I only found out later was serious. My husband wanted to know why I would have wanted to know sooner. The only answer I could come up with was, “So I could have worried more effectively.”

            • Timothy Lane says:

              When we lived in Greece, there was a nearby marble quarry that every boy was expected to climb down (there was a set route available). I was one, once I learned the way down, despite my mild acrophobia )and the serious risk of a fall, though I don’t think that ever happened to anyone). I doubt my parents ever knew about it.

  5. Anniel,

    You are so brilliant! I always enjoy reading your articles (even if I don’t leave a comment) because you cause me to think and examine my own motives.

    This article really hit home for me. I have experienced near enemies in just about every relationship that I have had so far (family, friends, Pastors, ex-mother-in-law, c0-worker, employers….). I am going to have to re-read this article a few more times as well as share it with others. Thank you.

    • Anniel says:

      Patricia, Thank you for your kind words. I can tell you that this article involved a lot of soul searching and truth-telling we all needed in our lives. I’m still considering the implications for me.

  6. Timothy Lane says:

    Just a short while ago, Rush Limbaugh discussed how the liberal attitude to all the victim groups was based on pity (and we might even say ostentatious pity). Your article helped me interpret his comments in a new light. They use this to seek votes from those they consider inferior.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      “Nanny state” equals “care taking” by people who think they know better how to run your life than you do. A natural consequence of this will be a superior mindset. This is opposite to the mindset (regardless of the trappings of “compassion”) that is necessary in any true service industry (whether a soup kitchen or a for-profit business). You are there to serve the needs of someone else. You set yourself below them. Maybe that fits into a for-profit business paradigm or a biblical one (and many rightfully mix the two). But it’s the thing.

      The end result of all this nannying is to create a group of feebly dependent people. Even (perhaps especially) libertarians are in this mix because as long as they have their dope, they don’t seem to really care about all the other impingements on our liberty. Mark Steyn says the same thing about the overall European mindset. People are willing enough to let the state make the adult-like decisions in their lives as long as they are free to plan their own vacations and choose the custom color of their iPhone cases.

      A trivialoized, infantilized people (as we are becoming) will just automatically cede more and more of what used to be the sphere of the individual’s duties and responsibilities to the state so that he can concentrate on more important things such as playtime and being distracted by this or that bobble. It’s said the Indians gave away Manhattan Island for a few shiny bobbles and trinkets. Same principle.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        It’s said the Indians gave away Manhattan Island for a few shiny bobbles and trinkets

        I read somewhere that the Indians who “sold” Manhattan Island, for a song, didn’t in fact own it or live there. Sounds similar to today’s Left.

        Apparently, the Dutch had to renegotiate the purchase with another tribe and lost the original investment.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          So them original Injuns were “stickin’ it to the white man.” I’m sure they’re heroes among a certain type. Still, it’s hard not to laugh with them on this one occasion. I’m sure the Injuns next had some nice swamp property in Florida to show them.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Many years ago, I read an alternate history story based on the idea that the Indians had driven the English colonials all the way back to Manhattan, which they allowed them to keep because it was the only piece of land they actually bought. The ignorance and naivety of this story is rather breath-taking (though both can be considered consequences of modern miseducation).

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            The Indians could have completely eradicated the settlers if they had had the foresight to understand what this colonization meant for them. And step two is that they would have had to work together instead of fighting amongst themselves.

            Still, it astonishes me the story of Cortes. How he could have taken down an empire with so relatively few men. I know there are many facets to this story. But we can see socialism creeping further in our midst. And instead of getting together and repulsing an existential threat, most people are bought off by the bobbles and trinkets. Truly, we will be getting what we deserve.

  7. Jerry Richardson says:


    3. Equanimity vs. Indifference. The psychologist says that this is the most pernicious and hardest to spot of the three couplings. —Anniel

    I often encounter people, speaking or writing, who say or imply that the opposite of love is hate. It’s easy enough to think that. Those two emotions do seem to be in direct opposition. But is isn’t true; the real opposite of love (the biblical agape type) is indifference. My scriptural support for this conclusion are the words of Jesus in the New Testament:

    I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
    —Revelation 3:15-16 KJV

    In the above, Jesus is speaking to the church of the Laodiceans concerning their lack of dedication and affection for Him. In the words of this discussion, he was telling them, I wish that you would hate me or love me, but since you do neither, you are indifferent (“lukewarm)”, “I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

    Thanks for the excellent article. Keep it up.

  8. hse says:

    I am really grateful to the owner of this site who has shared this great paragraph at at this time.

  9. Anniel says:

    Thanks Brad, I’m never sure. They mostly sound foreign to me.

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