Nobel Peace Prize for Wendell Berry

              I teach a course each semester in the College of Business at San Francisco State University, and in January 2004, just before classes began, the dean invited the faculty to a beautifully catered luncheon with a full day for faculty to give presentations of their current researches.  So I went.  I indulged in the early morning free coffee, orange juice, and multiple pastries.  I enjoyed the free lunch.  And, the only adjunct among them, I listened to my colleagues give their presentations.  I gave one myself.

              A few days later those of us who teach the business communications classes Eall of us adjuncts, part-timers Ealso had a meeting.  And the subject came up Eit always does Eof the studentsEwoeful abilities in all forms of communication.

              Having a sense of humor, I was willing to be quiet as my adjunct colleagues bemoaned the perennial.  But as the only one from among them who had attended the big boysEsession (big girlsE too), I felt bound to volunteer my observation that even our full-time, tenured faculty averaged no better oral skills than our students.

              The faculty had failed in two ways.  First, most of them made no references to each other.  Of the two dozen who talked, most sailed blithely on as if they were conducting their researches, and discussing them, oblivious of the rest of us.  Second, ignoring each other, most stuck doggedly to their topics, as if even their topics presented no human themes of interest either to the speakers or anyone in the room.  They could speak with some skills observing chronology, comparisons (many pointing to PowerPoint charts), and prior research in their fields.  But our students could do this.  Our students differed only in evidencing less assertiveness, less proud, bluster Ebut these are qualities that generally come to any of us who come into good income, and can take it for granted.

              The person who spoke last, a tall, elderly man, volunteered that he was on a committee overseeing consultants visiting the College of Business at San Francisco State.  These consultants were interested in something new in education:  polling students on how they learned.  I loved this.  Students have long done evaluations of teachers Eeffectively consumer satisfaction reports.  This other consideration Easking us to be aware of how any of us learn Eopens up so much more:  the multiplicities of how we rely on others, how others model things for us, how we imbue influences.

              Wendell Berry talks about these issues in a little chapbook put out by an online magazine, Orion.  Collected as In the Presence of Fear:  Three Essays for a Changed World, all three respond to the terrorist attacks of 9-11.  Its first, “Thoughts in the Presence of FearEdwells specifically on “the technological and economic optimism that ended on that day.Enbsp; Berry, however, has been focusing on these similar issues for many years now, as citizen on a small farm beside the Kentucky River, and as poet, novelist, teacher, and essayist.  His greatest love, and hope, is that we all might be better skilled, patient, and generous and so all connect more broadly Ehonoring the wisdom of what another poet, Joseph Brodsky, called that of “loose ends.E Berry has had to see, instead, the too-many ways most of us inhabit a culture of terrific and relentless violence.  With behaviors making us parts of it, we feed destruction and terror the world over.  Most of us cannot see the actual systems we inhabit because, as George Orwell described in “Politics and the English Language,Ewe also inhabit imaginations fed by language that inoculates us.

              God Bless Wendell Berry.  Give him the Nobel Prize for Peace.  He knows us.  And so that we might know him better, I have prepared a little glossary of his language Eterms that he carefully defines so that, taken together, we might see more clearly the ways we have all been swallowed by one massive culture.  All these terms come from one beautiful book of his, several years old now, Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community.

              Wendell Berry deserves the Nobel Prize for Peace.  As Essaying Differences proprietor, I nominate him.  And I do so for my own reason, too:  my own program cannot get off the ground until our intellectuals in universities, foundations, and ministries the world over begin to see the extent of the corporate, industrial monoculture in which all are trapped.  My colleagues at San Francisco State Eeven those good-hearted in the College of Business Eonly resemble intellectuals everywhere.  They have no sense that when they talk in public, they are part of a community Ethe very people sitting in front of them.  They could connect their topics to those of others.  They could connect the themes in them to related values, issues, and stories animating others.

   In the last of the three essays from In the Presence of Fear, Wendell Berry describes his reluctance Ea deserved loathing, really Eto join even in the good work of specialist cadres.  “In Distrust of MovementsElists a good many single-issue causes he loves, but he decries something about their very specialization.  “Ultimately,Ehe says, “I think . . . they are insincere; they propose that trouble is caused by other people.Enbsp;

   A couple days after I had read his In the Presence of Fear, I happened to hear news of another organization that had just gotten hundreds of thousands of dollars of foundation money for more specialists to monitor genocides as they keep recurring around the world.  My heart goes out to them.  But Wendell Berry is right.  Such genteel, well-meaning souls, all with their good causes, all resemble the clusters of mistletoe you can see out on the boughs of hickory, oak, and other tall, deciduous trees even in Wendell Berry’s Kentucky River bottomlands.  Such specialists all think they can change the tree, when the tree E regardless of those tenured at its extremities Econtinues to pump its massive arteries of energy up through the trunk and into the limbs as they do their reciprocities of photosynthesis.  The mistletoe may elicit some kisses elsewhere, when transferred to some human doorway, but it doesn’t help the tree.  Our specialists don’t help us very much, either, as we all remain, like mistletoe, largely parasites on a corporate culture that lets us divide, sub-divide, and mutually isolate though we take our turns preening on it.

             “The world is still intricate and vast, as dark as it is light, a place of mystery, where we cannot do one thing without doing many things, where we cannot put two things together without putting many things together,Econcludes Wendell Berry near the end of “In Distrust of Movements.Enbsp; Here’s hoping that, by starting with our language Ein this case, Wendell Berry’s language Ewe can enlarge our inhabitation of the world, with more peace genuinely in it, more capacity for peace, human connections, and respect for the nature we’re destroying.


A Glossary to See the World through Wendell Berry’s Eyes


absentee economy:  To build houses here, we clear-cut the forests there.  To have air-conditioning here, we strip-mine the mountains there.  To drive our cars here, we sink our oil wells there.  (37)


abstraction:  inability to distinguish one place or person or creature from another.  (23)


accounting:  measures the wealth of corporations, great banks, and national treasuries [and] takes no measure of places like Port Royal, Kentucky; Harpster, Ohio; Indianola, Iowa; Matfield Green, Kansas; Wolf Hole, Arizona; or Nevada City, California.  (8)


agribusiness corporations:  have, in fact, remained hugely and consistently profitable right through an era of severe economic hardship in rural America.  (48)


art:  all the ways by which humans make the things they need.  (108)  Our division of the “fine artsEfrom “craftsmanship,Eand “craftsmanshipEfrom “laborEis so arbitrary, meaningless, and absurd.  (110)


the arts: are the means by which the neighborhood lives, works, remembers, worships, and enjoys itself.  (112)


balance between city and countryside:  is destroyed by industrial machinery, “cheapEproductivity in field and forest, and “cheapE. . . fossil fuel . . . transportation.  (21)


the Bible:  a book open to the sky . . . best read and understood outdoors.  (103)


big government:  big enough to annihilate any country and (if necessary) every country, to spy on its citizens and on other governments, to keep big secrets, and to see to the health and happiness of large corporations. (xiv)


billionaires (vide millionaires):  have worked hard for their money, and they deserve the rewards of their work.  They need all the help they can get from the government and the universities.  (xiv)


blasphemy:  To work without pleasure or affection, to make a product that is not both useful and beautiful, is to dishonor God, nature, the thing that is made, and whomever it is made for.  (104)


careers:  the schools, governments and government agencies, the professions, the corporations[,] [e]ven the churches . . . do not concern themselves with issues of local economy and local ecology on which community health and integrity must depend.  Nor do the people in charge of these institutions think of themselves as members of communities.  They are itinerant, in fact or spirit, as their careers require them to be.  (152)


colonial economy:  “raw materialsEare exported and all necessities and pleasures are imported.  (16)


the colonialist principle:  that it is permissible to ruin one place or culture for the sake of another.  (128)


communities victimized:  As private life casts off all community restraints in the interest of economic exploitation or ambition or self-realization or whatever, the communal supports . . . are undercut, and public life becomes simply the arena of unrestrained private ambition and greed.  (121)


community:  centered on the household.  . . .  A public, when it is working in the best way Ethat is, as a political body intent on justice Eis centered on the individual.  (148-49)


Creation:  God’s presence in creatures.  (98)


divorce:  The proper question, perhaps, is not why we have so much divorce, but why we are so unforgiving.  The answer, perhaps, is that, though we still recognize the feeling of love, we have forgotten how to practice love when we don’t feel it.  (140)


Dorothy Day:  a person willing to go down and down into the daunting, humbling, almost hopeless local presence  . . .  to face the great problem of one small life at a time.  (25)


dualism:  We have presumed to say that we are made of two parts:  a body and a soul, the body being “lowEbecause made of dust, and the soul “high.E. . . thus . . . we inevitably throw them into competition with each other, like corporations. . . . And the predictable result has been a human creature able to appreciate or tolerate only the “spiritualE(or mental) part of Creation and full of semiconscious hatred of the “physicalEor “naturalEpart, which it is ready and willing to destroy for “salvation,Efor profit, for “victory,Eor for fun.  (107)


economic elites:  have invested their lives and loyalties in no locality and in no nation . . . and . . . are so insulated by wealth and power that they feel no need to care about what happens to any place.  (81)  They cannot imagine any part of the world or any human community in any part of the world as separate in any way from issues of monetary profit.  (82)


economy:  By “economyEI do not mean “economics,Ewhich is the study of money-making, but rather the ways of human housekeeping, the ways by which the human household is situated and maintained within the household of nature.  (99)


electronic media:  It is . . . the nature of the electronic media to blur and finally destroy all distinctions between public and community.  (124)


energy policy:  Because of an easy and thoughtless reliance on imported oil, we have no adequate policy for the conservation of gasoline and other petroleum products . . . no adequate policy for the development or use of other, less harmful forms of energy . . . no adequate system of public transportation.  (79)


euphemisms:  for what they intend to do [w]hen very important persons have plunder in mind.  (46)


the finest works of art:  do not divide people or justify or flatter their divisions; they define our commonwealth, and they enlarge it.  (161)


fossil fuel economy:  is the industrial economy par excellence, and it assigns no value to local life, natural or human.  (22)


the free market:  sees to it that everything ends up in the right place Ethat is, it makes sure that only the worthy get rich. . . .  The cardinal principle of the free market is unrestrained competition, which is a kind of tournament that will decide which is the world’s champion corporation.  (xiv)


free market theorists:  assume . . . an adequate national economy may be composed of many consumers, few producers, and even fewer rich manipulators at the top. . . . it also and more dangerously involves an inevitable, large-scale dependence on foreign supplies.  (79)


freedom:  an escape from the constraints of community life Econstraints necessarily implied by consideration for the nature of a place, by consideration for the needs and feelings of neighbors; by kindness to strangers . . .. (151)


freedom of speech:  necessary to political health and sanity because it permits speech Ethe public dialogue Eto correct itself. (146)


fundamentalist Islam:  For our leaders and much of our public, the appalling statistics of death and suffering in Iraq merely prove the efficiency of our military technology. . . .  our leaders have prayed only for the success of their arms and policies and have thus made for themselves a state religion Eexactly what they claim to fear in “fundamentalistEIslam.  (85)


global economy:  (like the national economy before it) operates on the superstition that the . . . needs or wishes of one place may safely be met by the ruination of another place.  (37)  The global economy does not exist to help the communities and localities of the globe.  It exists to siphon the wealth of those communities and places into a few bank accounts.  (129)


global industrialists:  will go anywhere and destroy anything, so long as there is a market for the result.  (81)


global thinking:  Those who have “thought globallyE( . . . imperial governments and multinational corporations) have done so by means of simplifications too extreme and oppressive to merit the name of thought.  (19)  Global thinking can only be statistical . . . shallowness.  (20)


great artistic expressions:  nothing to do with what we call “self-expression.Enbsp; (112)


great evil:  originates in [the] underlying assumption that all the world may safely be subjected to the desires and controls of a centralizing power.  (50)


a great university:  many computers, a lot of government and corporation research contracts, a winning team, and more administrators than students. (xiv)


Gulf War I:  We sent an enormous force of our young men and women to kill and to be killed in defense of our oil supply, but we have done nothing to conserve that supply or to reduce our dependence on it.  We will not ration petroleum fuels.  We will not mention to possibility of more taxes.  (72)


happiness:  We try to be “emotionally self-sufficientEat the same time that we are entirely and helplessly dependent for our “happinessEon an economy that abuses us along with everything else.  (151-52)


healthy community:  a neighborhood of humans in a place, plus the place itself:  its soil, its water, its air, and all the families and tribes of the nonhuman creatures that belong to it . . . if the human economy is in practical harmony with the nature of the place.  (14)  . . .  In a healthy community, people will be richer in their neighbors, in neighborhood, in the health and pleasure of neighbors, than in their bank accounts.  (40)


history:  leaves no doubt that most of the most regrettable crimes committed by human beings have been committed by those human beings who thought of themselves as “civilized.Enbsp; (82)


holiness of life:  It is understandably difficult for modern Americans to think of their dwellings and workplaces as holy, because most of these are, in fact, places of desecration, deeply involved in the ruin of Creation.  (100)


implicit wish of the industrial economy:  that producers might be wasteful, shoddy, and irresponsible and that consumers might be gullible, extravagant, and irresponsible.  (38)


the individual:  always has two ways to turn: . . . toward  the household and the community, to receive membership and to give service, or toward the relatively unconditional life of the public, in which one is free to pursue self-realization, self-aggrandizement, self-interest, self-fulfillment, self-enrichment, self-promotion, and so on.  (149)


individual liberty:  It is becoming steadily harder for ordinary people Ethe unrich, the unprivileged Eto choose a kind of work for which they have a preference, a talent, or a vocation, to choose where they will live . . . or even to choose to raise their own children.  And most . . . choose to conform not to local ways and conditions but to a rootless and placeless monoculture of commercial expectations and products.  (151)


institutions:  [all in] knowledge, information, education, money, and political will . . . have adopted the organizational patterns and the quantitative measures of the industrial corporations.  (23)


internationalist of trade (American and otherwise):  happy to sell wheat or arms to either side of any conflict.  (81)


Jesus:  would have been horrified by just about every “ChristianEgovernment the world has ever seen.  (115)


kinds of nakedness:  There is . . . the nakedness of the photographs of prisoners in Hitler’s death camps.  This is the nakedness of absolute exposure to mechanical politics, politics gravitating toward the unimagining “efficiencyEof machinery.  . . . also a photograph of a naked small child running terrified down a dirt road in Vietnam, showing the body’s absolute exposure to the indifference of air war, the appropriate technology of mechanical politics.  . . . also the nakedness in advertising . . ..  (166)


landowner:  the guest and steward of God. (97)


Laws:  Public laws are meant for a public, and they vary . . . according to forms of government.  The moral law, which is remarkably consistent from one culture to another, has to do with community life. (147)


leaders:  the people of wealth and power . . . cannot take any place seriously because they must be ready at any moment . . . to destroy any place.  (22)


liberated sexuality:  “freeEof courtesy, ceremony, responsibility, and restraint, dependent on litigation and expert advice.  (141)


liberationist intellectuals:  People are instructed to free themselves of all restrictions, restraints, and scruples in order to fulfill themselves as individuals to the utmost extent that the law allows.  Moreover, we treat corporations as “personsE. . .!  (151)


litigation:  we have changed from a society whose ideal of justice was trust and fairness among people who knew each other into a society whose ideal of justice is public litigation, breeding distrust even among people who know each other.  (122)


local life:  public servants all have tended to impose on the local place and the local people programs, purposes, procedures, technologies, and values that originated elsewhere.  (152-53)


Luddites:  people who dared to assert that there were needs and values that ustly took precedence over industrialization.  (130)


a man:  must look on virtually any woman as a potential accuser.  (142)


millionaires (vide billionaires):  have worked hard for their money, and they deserve the rewards of their work. They need all the help they can get from the government and the universities.  (xiv)


the modern Christian missionary:  presumes . . . to save the souls of people in other countries and religious traditions, who are often saner and more religious than we are.  (114)


misuse of the Bible:  logically accompanies the misuse of nature.  (104)


modern Christianity:  as specialized in its organizations as other modern organizations, wholly concentrated on the industrial shibboleths of “growthE. . . dedicated to incanting anemic souls into Heaven.  (114)  . . .  It has flown the flag and chanted the slogans of empire. It has assumed with the economists that “economic forcesEautomatically work for good and has assumed with the industrialists and militarists that technology determines history.  (115)


moral capital:  We are trusting . . . that people who come under the influence of the sexual pandering, the greed, the commercial seductions, the moral oversimplification, the brutality, and the violence of our modern public arts will yet somehow remain under the influence of Moses and Jesus.  (160)


most Christian organizations:  as happily indifferent to the ecological, cultural, and religious implications of industrial economics as are most industrial organizations.  (94)


most religious music:  attests to the general assumption that religion is no more than a vaguely pious (and vaguely romantic) emotion.  (113-14)


national economy:  increasingly a global economy, [it] no longer prospers by the prosperity of the land and people but by their exploitation.  (9)


one great possibility:  that we can come to peace by being peaceable.  (84)


one thing worth defending:  I suggest, is the imperative to imagine the lives of beings who are not ourselves and are not like ourselves:  animals, plants, gods, spirits, people of other countries and other races, people of the other sex, places Eand enemies.  (83)


organized Christianity:  its idea of a Christian economy is no more or less than the industrial economy.  (100)


our destruction of nature:  not just bad stewardship, or stupid economics, or a betrayal of family responsibility; it is the most horrid blasphemy . . . flinging His gifts into His face.  (98)


peace:  waste less, spend less, use less, want less, need less.  (92)


peaceableness:  In the face of conflict, the peaceable person may find several solutions, the violent person only one.  (87)


pluralism:  The modern industrial urban centers are “pluralisticEbecause they are full of refugees from destroyed communities, destroyed community economies, disintegrated local cultures, and ruined local ecosystems.  (169)


politicians and bureaucrats:  measure the economic prosperity of their nations according to the burgeoning wealth of the industrial interests.  (128)


privacy:  conventional publications of private grief, of violence to strangers, of . . . indulgence of curiosity without sympathy . . . all share in the evil of careless or malicious gossip; . . . worst of all . . . is the public prostitution of sex in guises . . . from the clinical to the commercial . . ..  (162)


the privacy of sex:  another industrial specialization.  (166)


professionalism:  exceptionally smart people [who] speak a language that is intelligible only to other people in their “fieldEor only to themselves.  (xiii)


provincial:  in need of whatever changes are proposed . . . by outside interests (to the profit of outside interests).  (153)


public:  all the people, apart from any personal responsibility or belonging.  A public building, for example, is a building which everyone may use but to which no one belongs. . . .  A community, unlike a public,  has to do first of all with belonging.  (147)  When a public government becomes identified with a public economy, a public culture, and public fashions of thought, it can become the tool of a public process of nationalism or “globalizationEthat is oblivious of local differences and therefore destructive or communities.  (148)


public discipline:  [its] failure in matters of economy is only the other face of the failure of private discipline.  (39)


public language:  can deal . . . with pornography, sexual hygiene, contraception, sexual harassment, rape, and so on.  “Sexual education,Ecarried on in this public language, is and can only be a dispirited . . . anatomical machinery . . . a sexuality that is neither erotic nor social nor sacramental but rather a cold-blooded, abstract procedure . . ..  (122)


real education:  is determined by community needs, not by public tests.  (123)


real harmony:  requires not international uniformity but international generosity toward local diversity.  (50)


reductiveness:  What is so fearfully arrogant and destructive is the implication  that what is represented, or representable, is all there is.  (164)


respect:  always implies imagination Ethe ability to see one another, across our inevitable differences . . ..  (173)


retribution:  If somebody raped or murdered a member of my family, would I not want to kill him?  Or course I would, and I daresay I would enjoy killing him.  Or her.  If asked, however, if I think that it would do any good, I must reply that I do not.  . . .  this is a form of behavior that we have wisely outlawed.  We have outlawed it, that is, in private life.  In our national life, it remains the established and honored procedure.  (86)


rural America:  a colony . . . in the power of an absentee economy, once national and now increasingly international, that is without limit in its greed and without mercy in its exploitation of land and people.  (8)


Saddam Hussein:  Our government . . . indulged his human rights abuses and his use of poison gas. . . .  We sold him equipment that could be used to develop nuclear weapons, missiles, and poison gas.  We sold him toxins and bacteria that could be used in biological warfare . . . [as] a spasm of our own corporate and professional anarchy.  (75)


safe sex:  we presume to teach our young people that sex can be made “safeEEby use, inevitably, of purchased drugs and devices.  What a lie!  Sex was never safe, and it is less safe now than it has ever been.  What we are actually teaching the young is an illusion of thoughtless freedom and purchasable safety, which encourages them to tamper prematurely, disrespectfully, and dangerously with a great power.  (142)


self-liberation:  We want the liberty of divorce from spouses and independence from family and friends, yet we remain indissolubly married to a hundred corporations that regard us at best as captives and at worst as prey.  (152)


sexual harassment:  In asking men to feel shame and to restrain themselves Ewhich one would not ask of an animal Ewomen are implicitly asking to be treated as human beings in that full sense. . . .  [T]his is not a kindness that can be conferred by a public economy or by a public government or by a public people.  It can only be conferred on its members by a community.  (144)


sexual liberation:  ought logically to have brought in a time of “naturalness,Eease, and candor between men and women.  It has, on the contrary, filled the country with sexual self-consciousness, uncertainty, and fear.  (141-42)  Starting with economic brutality, we have arrived at sexual brutality. (143)


sexual lovemaking:  we must ask how the modern representations of lovemaking that we find in movies, books, paintings, sculptures, and on television measure up to the best love scenes that we know.  (165)


“sexual partnerE/font>:  pretentious, fantastical, and solemn idiocy . . . could not be better exemplified than by the now-ubiquitous phrase “sexual partnerEnbsp; (141)


superstition:  our . . . conviction that we can contrive technological solutions to all our problems.  (13)


supranational corporations:  able to slide about at will over the face of the globe to wherever products can be bought cheapest and sold highest.  (47)


sustainable city:  the indispensable ideal and goal Eis a city in balance with its countryside.  (21)


technological determinism:  has become thoroughly mixed with the rhetoric of national mysticism so that a political leader may confidently say that it is “our destinyEto go to the moon or Mars or wherever we may go for the profit of those who will provide the transportation.  (132)


television:  the greatest disrespecter and exploiter of sexuality that the world has ever seen.  (124)


thrift:  Just as the public economy encourages people to spend money and waste the world, so the public sexual code encourages people to be spendthrifts and squanderers of sex . . . exactly as industrial agriculture has been exploiting and spending the natural capital built up over thousands of years in the soil. (143)


tobacco controversy:  distracts from the much great danger that we are an addictive society . . . from drugs to war to useless merchandise to various commercial thrills, and that our corporate pushers are addicted to our addictions.  (58)


trust  The health of a free public . . . depends on distrust. . . . the health of a community depends absolutely on trust.  (161)


two kinds of human economy:  There is the kind of economy that exists to protect the “rightEof profit. . . .  The other kind of economy exists for the protections of gifts, beginning with the “giving in marriage,Eand this is the economy of community, which now has been nearly destroyed by the public economy.  (138)


university language:  “the environment,E“biocentrism[,]E“ecology[,]Eand “ecosystemsE . . the terms themselves are culturally sterile.  They come from the juiceless, abstract intellectuality of the universities which was invented to disconnect, displace, and disembody the mind.  (34-35)


unlimited economic growth:  implies unlimited consumption, which in turn implies unlimited pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. (xvii)  We must repudiate what Edward Abbey called “the ideology of the cancer cellEthat pushes blindly toward . . . massive catastrophe.  . . . We must see that it is foolish, sinful, and suicidal to destroy the health of nature for the sake of an economy that is really not an economy at all but merely a financial system.  (13)


voting:  people in great numbers Ebecause of their perception that the government serves not the country or the people but the corporate economy Edo not vote.  (10)


voyeurs:  know only what they see.  (163)


women:  though they may dress as if the sexual millennium had arrived, hurry along our city streets and public corridors with their eyes averted, like hunted animals. (142)


would-be exploiters of the world:  would like to assume . . . that the world is everywhere uniform and conformable to their desires.  (50)


             In his preface to Sex, Economy, Freedom, & Community, Wendell Berry says “As I understand it, I am being paid only for my work in arranging the words; my property is that arrangement.  The thoughts in this book, on the contrary, are not mine.  They came freely to me, and I give them freely away.Enbsp; Thus I, the proprietor of Essaying Differences, rearrange his words for this glossary –I hope in his spirit Ethat these words may further circulate freely, and lead people back to his fuller work.  If, however, anyone in the greater public ever wishes to continue the circulation commercially, please note that copyright devolves back to Wendell Berry, though he also says, in his Mark Twain moment, “I have no ‘intellectual property,Eand I think that all claimants to such property are thieves.E/font>

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