Nietzsche, Liberalism, and the Paradox of Choice

What Nietzche got wrong was that freedom is a thing the derives from boundaries.

One of Nietzsche’s core principles was based on the parable of the Three Metamorphoses of the Spirit: Camel-Lion-Child.  The basic idea was that an individual lives duty-bound (the camel), only to come to question the purpose of duty forcing him to tear down the traditions that bound him to those duties (the lion), which opens up the possibility of seeking their full potential in a world without any traditions or boundaries (the child).

However, modern psychological research has shown repeatedly that the Paradox of Choice is a very real phenomenon in humans, which counterintuitively makes us less happy.  When we have too many choices, we merely become confused and stressed, and more prone to making poor decisions.  The key to reaching our full potential is knowing where the lines are, the boundaries.  Filtering and screening out bad options, leaving less to choose from, but higher quality.

Thus it is not the lion that should follow the camel, but the fox. Clever and cunning, a fox’s approach.  It is not recklessly tearing down all the boundaries and traditions (or “slaying the dragon” in Nietzsche’s terms), but carefully evaluating those boundaries based upon their own merit.  Not all that is old is wrong.

Indeed, there is a reason traditions came about in the first place … they had utility.

And most of that utility was about establishing boundaries.  For when we are free to do anything, we lack the focus, safety, and security to excel.  Boundaries prevent other people from murdering us.  They permit us to enjoy the fruits of our labor, without someone else later stealing them.  To build communities and cities, without fear that later immigrants will move in and exploit our efforts.  To focus on our strengths and opportunities, without being paralyzed by the Paradox of Choice.

All of these things give us the incentive, the freedom, to invest in ourselves and our communities.  A freedom which derives from boundaries.  That freedom, and the boundaries they derive from, are a hallmark of classic liberalism and liberal societies.

Recklessly tearing down boundaries and tradition, as Nietzsche argued (e.g. God is dead) is an affront to liberal principles.  It ignores the realities of human nature, and the boundaries necessary to allow individuals to flourish in a liberal society.  Boundaries which are often rooted in traditions.

It is not the Camel-Lion-Child paradox, but the Camel-Fox-Child, that is necessary to preserve the liberal ideal.

That is not to say traditions should never change or be discarded.  Rather, that those changes should be the result of careful consideration of the consequences.  Wise choices, over reckless deconstructionism.

It is no surprise that later post-Modernists like Sarte as well as a whole range of “rebels” from Fascists to Feminists, Progressives, and other cultural Marxists seized upon Nietzsche’s ideas.  Nietzsche was a popular figure among those in the 20th and 21st century who would seek to tear down the old with little consideration for the consequences, or with perhaps unfettered optimism in their own utopian ideas.

Their problem, much like Nietzsche’s, was a poor understanding of where freedom comes from, the purpose of traditions, the Paradox of Choice, and the basic human nature behind individual endeavor.  They were all the “lion” in various forms from Nietzsche’s paradigm.  They destroyed, or at least sought to.  And much like Nietzsche went crazy in the end (suffering a mental breakdown in 1889 and spending the last decade of his life insane), the result has arguably been a sort of “societal madness” … the ever-present growth of Outrage Culture.

It could be contended that Nietzsche tried to mitigate that reckless deconstructionism, in a way, with his concept of Ubermensch (a.k.a. the Nietzsche “superman” or overman). The idea was that only certain individuals would be able to transcend the normal rules of human behavior and society.  Of course, Nietzsche failed to foresee the rise of rampant Narcissism and Egotism in Western society in the latter half of the 20th century and 21st century.  In essence, we ALL now think we are UbermenschSpecial snowflakes, who feel entitled to cross any line.  One might also suggest it was Nietzsche’s ideas themselves, through modern Feminists and Progressives and cultural Marxists, that actually brought about the narcissistic phenomena … unintended consequences perhaps, the seeds we sow.

Too many lions, not enough foxes.  It is knowing where the line is, that sets us free as individuals to reach our highest potential.  Freedom is a thing that derives from boundaries.

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Left Think, Me Think: Bias and the Failure of Modern Higher Education

The failure of modern higher education is that it wants to teach people what to think, not how to think.

**Note: Full disclosure here: I taught for several years at a major American university.

Outside of technical courses like computer science and mathematics and biology, the focus of university content should be based on teaching rational thought.  Simple things like the Three Laws of Classical Thought, logical fallacies, and how to avoid engaging in things like equivocation that are the basis of having meaningful discourse.

These things used to be taught as part of logic and rhetoric courses … indeed they formed the backbone of a liberal arts education.  Nowadays this has been lost.  And this is trickling down into lower levels of education, as well.  Hell, now we even now have progressive schools here in Chicago (e.g. Catherine Cook School) trying to teach kindergarteners about “oppression” by denying access to playground equipment or their cubbies to certain groups of kids … teachers clearly more concerned about pushing their own views onto six-year-olds then teaching them how to think for themselves.

The result is that you have feminists and progressives redefining words like “violence”, engaging in blatant acts of equivocation that undermine serious conversations that members of a free liberal society need to have in order to sustain that society.  Indeed, free thought, and the vibrant discourse that goes with it, are the lifeblood of a free society.  You can call this leftism or cultural Marxism or progressivism or feminism or whatever you want to point the finger at … but the real point here is that there are clearly some basic tenets of logic and rational thought that are not being taught to college-educated people anymore.

This is a very real threat to the continued sustenance of Western society.  It is a moral failing of the profession of higher education.

This doesn’t even begin to touch on further issues related to the economics of academic journal publication and tenure, and how those create perverse incentives for scientists and scholars to behave in ethically questionable ways.  But we will leave those issues for another post …

History has a tendency to repeat itself.  During the 1600’s, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes railed against the university system in England for fomenting rebellion by teaching “subversive” doctrine, which led to social upheaval and the English Civil War  of the 1640’s.

Hobbes solution to this was to have university curriculum dictated by the sovereign authority, which at the time in England was Oliver Cromwell who effectively ruled as a military dictator in England (and after the Restoration in 1660, the new King Charles II).  The sovereignty would have the ability to approve, in essence, what was taught and how.  For Hobbes, the goal was to provide a civic education for the public, in order to maintain a healthy social contract between the government and the governed.

Now I can’t necessarily agree with Hobbes argument that the government should directly dictate what is taught at the university, or how that message should be shaped.  That seems a slippery slope to Totalitarianism (a point many later scholars have criticized Hobbes for).  But I would agree with him that the university system has a responsibility to teach people how to think critically, rationally.  Or in other words, how to think for themselves.

I would hope that the university system in the West could self-regulate in this regard, as an aspect of some sort of professional ethics, the same that doctors in medicine or other fields do.  But this is not happening, and instead we have too many professors who feel entitled to teach kids what to think.

Hobbes may have been over-zealous in his approach to a solution to this.  But the fact that this very same issue existed in the past, and led to such social upheaval and actual civil war, should be a lesson for us today.  We are all part of a social contract, whether we realize it or not.  Whether we like it or not.  It is the price we pay for living in a civil society, lest we descend into a war against all, bellum omnium contra omnes. University professors are no exception to this rule.

When any of us abdicate our responsibilities to these social contracts, we jeopardize the very things that enabled the construction of the society that fostered us in the first place.  Now whether doing so is right or wrong is a matter that could be debated.  But to do so without deep thought or consideration, is pure naivety.

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How to Compete with Women as a Man in a Feminist World

Let’s be clear about one thing: when men and women compete with each other, we all lose.

Unfortunately, in the modern Feminist/Progressive world of identity politics and androgynous ideology, men and women now often work side by side, sometimes even doing the same job. Thus avoiding competing with women is almost impossible for many men.

The problem, as Jordan Peterson so eloquently pointed out, is that the ways that men compete with each other are forbidden when men compete with women.

In short, the boundaries of male competition and discourse are maintained through the constant possibility of escalation to physical violence. But men cannot do that with women … any conflict cannot be escalated as such. And thus men in the modern world don’t know how to compete with women, short of simply walking away.

When we put men and women together in the same working environment, but provide no way for them to compete and/or escalate conflict to full resolution, we do them a disservice. Moreover, if the only possible resolution comes from “communication” using feminine modes of communication, then is it any wonder why most men feel lost at how to compete with women? Or that men in the West either adopt more feminine traits or simply avoid women altogether (i.e. MGTOW)?

These issues lay at the heart of a lot of the growing dysfunction in the West, and contribute to things like the rapidly declining male college enrollment (females are now making up nearly 60% of freshman undergraduates) and spiking middle-age male suicide rates.

So in this era of “toxic masculinity”, what is a man to do?

In my mind, there are a few key tactics the Modern Man can adopt:

  1. Avoiding career paths dominated by women – this is becoming exceedingly difficult. Still there are certain technical fields where men dominate given their innate preferences to things of technical/logical/mathematical nature. Programming and computer-related fields are obvious here. But any sort of field that requires that schematic sort of thinking is not a natural draw for many women, despite what feminists and progressives might say. Also fields that require certain physical attributes, like the military or the trades, lack a similar draw.

    The other possibility is to take on more of a lone-wolf mentality, even when working with others. For me, this means I cooperate and coordinate with others as a team. But when it comes to completing specific tasks (particularly technical ones) I often prefer to work alone. If I delegate certain tasks, I am very judicious about who and what gets delegated. I, for instance, will limit the scope of any delegated task, to make sure that if it does not get completed in time, it does not delay the rest of the project (e.g. I can just leave a placeholder in the main programming code till it gets done).

  2. Exercising Law of Power #38: Think as you like, but behave as others do – From Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power, you can read more about this law here or here. The basic premise here is that, when in a working environment with a lot of women, you must learn to placate to their tendencies of doing things in certain ways. For instance, in my experience, women will want to spend a lot more time talking about things, discussing, etc. rather than actually doing. So you need to be supportive of their need to “communicate”. Women are trying to create group cohesion as part of how they normally function socially. They also might start forming cliques or sniping at each other in larger group settings, but best to stay out of that.

    Obviously, that may or may not really be helpful depending on the task, but that is not the point. The point is allow women to act like women, even to the point of encouraging them, so as to not let them get in the way of you accomplishing things in your normal masculine way (e.g. goal-oriented, mission focused, less more efficient communication, visually focused, etc.). Think of it as sort of taking on a paternal role, see the women as little girls, who deep down inside they all are in a way.

    And that does not mean women cannot contribute to a project, even a technical one, in meaningful ways. They are great at organizing things, creating cohesive groups quickly, and communicating. I have observed this myself working on various technical projects. Just realize they are not men, and don’t function as men. Appreciate women for what they are.

    **Note: Don’t get me wrong, there are women who can do computer programming. I’ve trained many of them, including ones that work at big companies like Google and Amazon. But women who have that same innate talent or desire for computers and technical thinking are just not as common as men, in my experience.

  3. Develop independent income streams, or the ability to work as a contractor – one of the biggest threats to most working men in the West these days are HR (human resources) departments, and the ease at which complaints of sexual harassment or other general female nagginess can quickly jeopardize a man’s source of income. Moreover, many of these HR departments are dominated by women, often with liberal arts backgrounds (e.g. sociology), who have in recent years been heavily brain-washed with third wave feminism and other modern SJW rhetoric during college. This is a very real threat to most modern men.

    The only real solution is thus to position yourself as best as possible to mitigate the chance that such people won’t have your balls in a noose. Blackdragon talks a lot about this issue, and I agree with him. It is important to develop independent and multiple income streams that are not directly tied to one organization or company. Cultivate flexibility and outcome independence. This may be by developing the ability to work for yourself as a contractor, starting a small business (or multiple ones) on the side, and/or developing technical skills that put you in-demand in the job market.

    Think of it like investing in the stock market vs. having all your savings in company stock (that you work for). Diversification is key to providing stable income even in a volatile market. It also provides freedom when you come under threat from fanatics in the SJW or Progressive groups, or HR threats for that matter. You must assume formlessness, lest they pin you down.

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Freedom requires Inequality

The ironic thing about freedom, in a classical liberal sense, is that it requires inequality. 

Indeed, the Doctrine of Individualism is rooted in the principle that individuals must be permitted to both rise and fall, to both succeed and fail, in order for them to be in full control of their destiny.  Whether that be economic or political or otherwise.

The reality is that people have different skills, different levels of intelligence, different levels of athleticism, different levels of attractiveness, and so on.  The unavoidable consequence of that is that in a truly free society, people will end up unequally.

Creating artificial constraints in order to equalize outcomes undermines that principle, and doing so fails to maximize the potential of individuals within that society.  Trading risk and the freedom that comes with it for some semblance of safety.  The path followed by any domesticated animal you see on a farm today.  No doubt, the only way to achieve complete “equality” between people would be limit the abilities of certain individuals, a la Harrison Bergeron.

As such, Progressives argue, we must chain ourselves. But the unspoken question that must be asked is this: is that trade worth it?  Or as de Tocqueville aptly observed two hundred years ago:

Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom – Alexis de Tocqueville

In other words: do we want to be free, or do we want to be equal?  Because those two ideals are unfortunately incompatible.

The critical thing about inequality is that it creates scarcityAnd scarcity creates value. 

Without darkness, there is no light … everything the same.  A blur.  White noise.  Meaning and value derive from the contrast.  From the inequality.

If we all had a diamond at the moment of birth, or if diamonds grew on trees, then diamonds would be relatively worthless.  In the same vein, if all men were of the same uber-intelligence, then intelligence would be less valued.  Or if all men were uber-athletic, we wouldn’t pay NBA players the salaries we do today.  All of those arise from scarcity.  From inequality.

In short, if inequality creates scarcity, and scarcity creates value, then it follows that value is actually rooted in inequality itself.

Now perhaps there is some nobility in arguing that we should try to create better opportunities for all people, to sacrifice for others for the sake of equity.  But, in the end, the value equation remains the same.  There will always be winners and losers.

It has been argued by many a wise man before me that those who would trade freedom for security, deserve neither.  Of course, those were men from a different time, a different era, where the freedoms we often take for granted today were not guaranteed.

In that era, people desired freedoms, because many of them came from medieval Europe and/or were part of a colonial system where they grew up without.  They wanted opportunities, but they knew that such opportunities only came along with risk.  Failure.  Loss.  It is those things that spur individual endeavor, that it could be argued led to the development of the modern world.  But they require a frank acceptance of the cruelty that can be the struggle between life and death, between success and failure. That there will always be winners and losers.

A society must have such a frank acceptance if it is to truly thrive, rather than wither.  To be cognizant of trade-offs demanded in the pursuit of any ideal.  And to realize there is inherent value in even the “negative” things sometimes, inequality included.

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Bringing back Adulthood

To quote Yale professor William Deresiewicz:

Many modern adolescents are “great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.”

One of the challenging things about being an rational academic or scientist in the modern American far-left progressive version of “science” is the realization that the things you believe in, strive for, can quickly become subsumed into dogma by your compatriots in the cause.  What you once thought was a firm, factual grounding for you approach to the world gradually morphs into some sort of pseudo-religion.  Even science.  And there is no longer room for debate, either you accept our version of “the truth”, or you are the enemy.  The heretic.

Of course, the great irony is that many of the great scientists in history were heretics in their day, either to the Church or the State or the pre-existing scientific establishment.  Galileo.  Einstein.  Darwin. Dawkins. Gould.

Which brings us back to the question of incentives – why do what you do?

The current morphing of science into some sort of pseudo-religion by the mainstream left is really just a microcosm of a larger phenomenon facing those coming of age in the modern West.  When you realize your chosen path in life – the one based on “facts” – is really just a construct made of beliefs, and beliefs that could easily be substituted with another set of beliefs, what do you do?  They take your goals, your passions, your causes, even your science … and turn them into fervor.  Indeed, you realize that a couple generations ago, they did the same, just with a different set of beliefs.

And so you find that your individualism – its pursuits and dreams – have been subsumed into some sort of communal fervor you never signed up for. A world of toxic masculinity, blurred genders, feminism.  Where purpose and struggle and overcoming challenges has been replaced by participation trophies and safe spaces.

We have thus replaced the “what” we do, but in doing so lost the “why”.

Disparities in Male and Female Employment among Millennials

There are many articles out there written about the “plight” of Millennial men.  How are they are failing and falling behind, spending their days immersed in video games and junk food and porn and watching sports.  Indeed among Millennial men aged 18-35, roughly 41% of them now make less than $30k per year, up from just 25% in 1975.  Meanwhile, those same men have plummeted to make up only about 40% of college students, face higher unemployment than women, with nearly 33% of them still living at home with their parents.  In short, modern day young men are falling through the cracks of a society that should be preparing them to sustain our society for future generations.

And as noted above relative to my own experience in science, why shouldn’t they just hang out playing video games and jerking off to porn.  Society turned their backs on them.  The belief in the enduring spirit of masculinity, to conquer challenges and be rewarded so for doing it, has been replaced by the mythos of toxic masculinity.  Replacing one set of beliefs for another.

Why, as a young man today, should you really get off your ass to do anything?  Where are the incentives?  Anything you accomplish will be viewed as simply a matter of privilege, while SJWs and progressives actively work to disenfranchise you, and if you happen to notice or say anything, you our ruthlessly shamed and ridiculed.  No fault divorces and antiquated alimony/child support laws have even altered the prospect of building a family for many men into a very risky endeavor.  Incentives drive behavior.  And make no mistake about the driving power of opportunity for mating and reproduction in the creation of human civilization …

So why shouldn’t men opt out?  Or rather, why would they opt in?  Red Pill, MGTOW, Going Galt … whatever you want to call it.  Why should they continue to sustain a system that no longer sustains them?

The “what” has changed, and in doing so we have lost the “why”.

Some of this comes down to Science vs. Scientism (read this for an explanation of the differences).  Indeed much of the Left’s embrace of science can be thought of as a form of scientism.  We can even see this in the recent editing of  old Bill Nye the Science Guy shows on Netflix, where they removed references to binary genders and make it appear that biological gender exists on a spectrum as scientific fact.  It is NOT a scientific fact, my friends.

These are clear efforts to use a brand of scientism to “shape the narrative” and stifle discussion.  To replace one set of beliefs with another.  Which brings us back to my original point: when Liberalism and its Individualist ideals are subverted towards ulterior motives, we lose the meaning in the things we do.  And when we lose meaning in the things we do, we lose the very incentives that foster those individual pursuits in the first place.

We need look no farther than the failure to launch of Millennial men as an example of those effects.  In the end, those men still retain the only real power most men have ever had – the power to walk away.

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The anti-Scientific Positions of the Left

gender-identity-science One thing the American Left likes to do is repeatedly excoriate the Right for being “anti-scientific” for their positions on things like evolution and global warming.  The problem is that the Left is just as unscientific, only about different topics … case in point are progressive views on gender, intersexual dynamics, and the human female biological clock.

Let me say first that, as a practicing PhD scientist, the Left is correct at least in that denying the validity of evolution is silly. The scientific evidence for that is solid, including both paleontological evidence (e.g. fossils) and genetic evidence. The Left is also correct in that denying the validity of climate change as it relates to the release of greenhouse gases and deforestation and melting glaciers is silly. One only has to look at our next-door neighbor Venus to see the effects. And long-term temporal climate data clearly shows a trend of rising global temperatures over the last century. One could perhaps argue over whether such climate change is man-made, but it is indisputable from the data that it is occurring.  It is also indisputable that human activities are releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases.

But Progressives on the Left pointing the finger at people on the Right about being unscientific are basically like the pot calling the kettle black.  A prime example of progressives’ equally deluded stances is their view on gender and gender identity.

Let me ask this question: if one accepts the validity of evolution, and acknowledges that humans are a sexually reproducing species, then what would be the evolutionary purpose for gender fluidity?  Would evolution not ween those gender fluid individuals out over time?  That is how natural selection works.  Evolution clearly needs, for a sexually reproducing species, two distinct biological genders … to the point that in mammals it created separate X and Y chromosomes for sex determination (with a few more complicated exceptions like platypuses).

The advantages of sexual reproduction (versus asexual) are anti-science-feminismrooted in recombination of parental chromosomes and the genetic variance it creates, allowing a species to be resilient to wide-ranging environmental changes. But sexual reproduction also comes at a two-fold cost, with slower reproduction rates and the loss of the guarantee that all individuals can reproduce (they have to search for a willing mate first to do so).  So given all of that, it doesn’t make sense for evolution to maintain 12 genders in humans, or gender fluid individuals … because the cost of sexual reproduction is already high enough.  Species that did so would quickly go extinct.

And of course this doesn’t even broach the issue that most transgender re-assignment surgeries are Male-to-Female (most estimates say somewhere around 70-75%), rather than 50:50, nor the relative rarity of gender dysphoria in human populations based on epidemiological studies (averaging roughly 0.03% across studies).  There are clearly social aspects to the push for gender fluidity that have no basis in biology.

To sum up, Progressives on the Left arguing for gender fluidity make about as much sense as people on the Right arguing we should teach creationism in schools. Both positions are equally anti-scientific. In fact, debating with Progressives about gender identity often feels strangely like debating with evangelicals about evolution …

Now, to be clear, I’m not arguing anyone should be mistreated … live and let live I say.  If Progressives want to create a social construct (in the form of fluid gender identity), and then try to convince other people to accept it, they can certainly do so. In that regard, it’s no different than religion.  The problem of course comes when people want to legislate their beliefs and force others to accept them. That would be equivalent to legislating religion … unfortunately that parallel is lost upon Progressives. Such attempts are a direct attack on the classical liberal principles Western society is built upon.

The above doesn’t even touch on other anti-scientific positions of the American Left, in particular their views on intersexual dynamics between men and women, and their denial of the existence of the female biological clock (or should we say “The Wall”).

gender-identity-science-confusionThe Progressive assault on masculinity in the West is a case in point here, attempts to redefine women as men, and co-opt masculine traits as some sort of ideal “feminine” traits. Despite the fact, as noted in the previous section, that evolution has clearly defined two separate biological genders, and created both the genetic and physiological infrastructure to maintain these two, with distinct physical and behavioral attributes. There is ample scientific evidence for the effects of testosterone on the human brain and its basis for differences in male/female behavior.

And so children growing up in the modern West are obviously confused when they get to adulthood and find – despite all the Progressive Left’s brainwashing about “gender being a social construct” and “feminized men in touch with their feelings being attractive” – that members of the opposite sex are NOT attracted to what they are told they should be … no, they are attracted to what millions of years of evolution has engrained them with. Any Red Pill man knows this intuitively.

Because that is how evolution works. And anyone who takes a scientific view of the world realizes the world doesn’t always work the way we think it should … it works the way it does. Or in other words: an Empirical view. Your feelings don’t matter, cupcake.

So no, lady, being bitchy and aggressive and “assertive” doesn’t make you attractive to most men.  Men in general are drawn to women who exhibit neotenous traits, across cultures (more on the scientific basis here). I realize there are exceptions, but remember: the exception to the rule does not invalidate the rule.

The worst part of this is women literally believing they can still have babies when they are 40-years-old as if they are 20-years-old. About 1 in 7 women are infertile by age 35 (essentially triple the rate of a woman in her late twenties). not to mention the risk of birth defects and down’s syndrome skyrocket by the time you reach 40. Any pregnancy in a woman over the age of 35 is actually medically considered a geriatric pregnancy.  A lot of women in their 30’s also think they have plenty of time, but the average duration of courtship in the West is 2-3 years, if not longer in many cases. So for that 30-year-old woman, if you meet someone today it will take years to get to the point of being married and pregnant.

All that said, women shouldn’t have to have babies if they don’t want to. But it is equally problematic for the Progressive Left to be filling their heads with anti-scientific ideology and fairy tales that undermine their ability to do so if they choose. Misinformation is a very dangerous thing.

Which brings us back to our main point: There are just as many anti-scientific viewpoints on the Left as there are on the Right, they just come in different forms. It is critical for those of us who believe in the importance of science and scientific integrity to objectively hold both sides accountable when they attempt to spread anti-scientific viewpoints, particularly when they attempt to pass those myths off as “fact”.  And from a classical liberal standpoint, we must acknowledge that rational empirical thinking is necessary for individuals to make good decisions … indeed the entire premise of classical liberalism  and the Doctrine of Individualism rests in individuals having correct information upon which to base those decisions.

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