Signs and Portents: Is Middle New Zealand Really Less Racist Than It Used To be?

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THERE ARE SIGNS and there are portents – if you know how to read them. Fifteen years ago it was easy to predict how New Zealanders would react to Don Brash’s infamous Orewa speech. Public antipathy to the Treaty of Waitangi registered strongly in opinion surveys. Hatred for all things Maori was widespread across “Middle New Zealand”. Not overtly (except among trusted family and friends) but disguised beneath its equally bitter hatred for what amounted to the same thing – welfare beneficiaries and gangs. Political parties, wary (until Brash!) of playing the race card too obviously, had worked out that they could derive just about as much electoral benefit by beating-up on Maoridom’s body-doubles. Everybody knew exactly who the politicians were talking about, and just about everybody played along.

Ronald Reagan had kicked it off twenty-five years earlier with his inflammatory speeches about “Welfare Queens”. Conservative Americans had no trouble decoding the Gipper’s language: “Welfare Queens” were shorthand for African-Americans taking criminal advantage of White Americans’ generosity. New Zealand conservatives were fast learners of this game. The political emphasis (from both major parties) on beneficiary fraud: on “welfare cheats” criminally gaming the welfare system; was intended to (and did) persuade Middle New Zealand that they were being taken for a ride by “these people”. They were, of course, willing to concede that there were cases of genuine hardship: decent New Zealanders (a.k.a Pakeha) who really did need the community’s help; but not many.

Some of the most powerful signs and portents came in the form of resident-initiated referenda on the creation of Maori wards for district and regional councils. Local politicians foolhardy enough to recognise the case for special Maori representation very soon found their efforts rolled back by huge majorities. The vehemence with which proposals for Maori wards were rejected by Pakeha voters was matched only by the vehemence of their rejection of the Treaty when polled. The near unanimity of these rejections pointed strongly to the depth of racial animus in Middle New Zealand. They had learned how to mask their racism by unloading it onto racially identified proxies, but given the chance to express it safely and anonymously through the ballot box the results were unequivocal.

The silver lining which redeemed all these grim storm clouds was the strong geographical element to Middle New Zealand’s racist impulses. The animosity towards Maori was concentrated in rural and provincial New Zealand. The nearer you got to the centre of New Zealand’s largest cities, the more attenuated the racism of Pakeha New Zealanders became. Notwithstanding the growing strength of this urban liberalism, it was in the “brown” suburbs of the big cities – most especially South Auckland – that Don Brash’s 2005 bid to assuage Middle New Zealand’s hunger for racial rectification was ultimately halted. Even so, as the Duke of Wellington said of the Battle of Waterloo: “It was a damn near-run thing!”

The key question thrown up by the extraordinary results of the 2020 general election, therefore, is: “Is Middle New Zealand less racist than it used to be?” Did Jacinda Ardern’s inspired rhetoric about the “Team of Five Million”, and the colour-blind nature of the pandemic, put a temporary stop on the deeply embedded racism of Middle New Zealanders – even in Ilam and Rangitata? Or, has natural demographic attrition thinned out the ranks of the provinces’ aggressive racists to the point where the attitudinal shifts of the past forty years have acquired a permanent and decisive electoral heft?

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

Sadly, the signs and portents from the Sixth Labour Government are all pointing in the opposite direction. A decisive shift in public attitudes away from the racism that has characterised so much of New Zealand history would, presumably, be measurable in the quantum of prejudice still directed towards beneficiaries. If Maori and Pacifica in the grip of poverty and homelessness were becoming recognisable to Pakeha New Zealanders as fellow citizens in need, then surely Jacinda and her Finance Minister would have felt safe in authorising a Christmas bonus for all those voters on benefits. That they have point-blank refused to contemplate such a gesture suggests that Pakeha are still a long way from making this solidaristic identification.

According to Richard Harman of the Politik website, the Labour Party currently enjoys an embarrassment of riches on the polling and focus-group front. Jacinda and her colleagues know more about what New Zealanders are thinking than any party in the last twenty years. That they are unwilling to risk the ire of the hundreds of thousands of voters they have lured away from National, by handing out extra cash to beneficiaries, strongly suggests that the warm glow of unity which Covid kindled has cooled considerably.

That the prejudices of Middle New Zealand appear to be in rude good health this Christmas season is further attested to by the Labour Government’s ever-so-careful stepping away from its earlier commitment to criminalising hate speech. They may also be receiving worrying feed-back from those tasked with devising the new (and compulsory) New Zealand History curriculum. Certainly, a long period of public consultation has been promised before the new programme is rolled out in 2022. More than enough time, perhaps, for a whole pack of sleeping racist dogs to wake up and start barking?

That’s the thing about signs and portents: there’s little point in paying attention to some while studiously ignoring others. Those who insist that the pernicious influence of New Zealand’s colonial history continues to permeate the present state of Maori-Pakeha relations, would surely be unwise to proceed as if the influence of colonisation carries no contemporary political weight. If there are no signs of Pakeha racism diminishing significantly, then the portents for this government doing very much to advance a serious policy of decolonisation would appear to be decidedly unfavourable.

31 COMMENTS

  1. So the point of this article is what? NZers of European extraction are wicked and should feel bad? Conservatives are by definition wicked and racist?

    “That the prejudices of Middle New Zealand appear to be in rude good health this Christmas season is further attested to by the Labour Government’s ever-so-careful stepping away from its earlier commitment to criminalising hate speech.”

    I don’t follow. Ardern and Little appear to have every intention of further restricting freedom of speech, in ways that would have done nothing to prevent the Christchurch terrorist attacks. Is the author unaware that the Human Rights Act already protects New Zealanders against those who would incite people to harm others (or themselves)? What sort of further restrictions does the author think we need? Criminalization of any criticism or mockery of anyone who is deemed to be “of colour”?

    The author apparently wants to see “a serious policy of decolonisation”. What would such a policy look like? And how exactly would it benefit Maori?

  2. The short answer to that is yes but gradually. This is the way of human nature and you can’t force change on people’s mindset in a sudden and complete way.

    Playing devils advocate on here i’d argue the way we are attempting to tackle racism is contributing to the resistance. We as a society seem to rejoice in our differences as opposed to what makes us similar. For someone with inbuilt prejudice this is positive reinforcement of their positions. The woke don’t get this because they don’t nor were programmed to think this way. Any strategy to promote similarity is misinterpreted as assimilation. This is the real problem and our current approach is if it doesn’t work then attempt the same thing again just with more gusto! It’s the most clearly defined explanation of insanity.

    The other ‘issue’ I have is the sudden use of Maori language as an attempt to promote oneself as non racist. Saying good morning and/or naming government departments in Maori ain’t going to change core issues such as homelessness, crime, poor health statistics etc. By all means speak more Maori however people are deluded if they believe this actually improves the lot of Maori. Ditto for compulsory Maori or history. It’s the lazy way of saying you’re doing something.

    • Those questions are of such a low IQ anyone with a smart phone could answer, assuming they know their way around phones and the English language.

      In many ways it’s easy to see how you would beg the question of why are Maori receiving preferential treatment. It’s simple. Don’t dispossess Maori of their land and treasurers and then Maori won’t have any reason to claim poverty.

    • “The other ‘issue’ I have is the sudden use of Maori language as an attempt to promote oneself as non racist.”.. The old “wolf in sheeps clothing” trick.. The only thing I might add, is that, as has been said, and I concur, is that to be able to talk with what was an enemy, in their own language, and therefore step closer to recognising the basic humanity in those “old enemies” as the same as ones own, with only cultural variations based on their environment, is an important step in removing the xenophobia that underpins the vast majority of racist opinion and justification for the historical abuses of those people… A government of clear forward vision, substance and courage is what’s required to take the first few baby steps in this direction.. Whether this government has what it takes is still debatable.. Maybe a repeat of the caucus pressure brought to bear on the ministry of the Savage government is due for a rerun.. The historical parallels are plain to see here..

    • Frank the Tank: “For someone with inbuilt prejudice this is positive reinforcement of their positions. The woke don’t get this because they don’t nor were programmed to think this way.”

      Everybody has biases and prejudices. Yea, verily, even the woke. Some might say, especially the woke.

      But I agree with you: emphasising the differences between peoples may well have the unintended consequence of driving them further apart.

      “….the sudden use of Maori language as an attempt to promote oneself as non racist….”

      I understood this to be an attempt to promote more widespread use of the language: part of the revitalisation programme. But your interpretation may well be right.

      However. Unless Maori themselves put the grunt into producing native speakers, the language will ultimately be lost. If there aren’t now native speakers, the language is dead. No amount of sprinkling it about will save it, either, absent those native speakers.

      • Law of unintended consequences applies. Yes it was used to promote use of Maori however has become another virtue signal as the vast majority of people that use Maori in everyday speech are under 40, white and usually either in a government department, major corporate or the media (including social).

        For the record people should speak what language they wish. I just roll my eyes when people use Maori words intermittently as an “look at me, aren’t I wonderful and educated” crutch.

  3. We are unlikely to see the government change its stance on ANYTHING. Doing nothing and not ‘scaring the horses’ is the safest option in the short term. And the short term is all that Jacinda and co. are concerned with.

    Governments have no goals, as such, and are primarily concerned with the day-to-day flow of digitally-created money. When the flow starts to falter the government jiggles with its levers to get it flowing again, even if that flow caused major long-term damage to society and the environment. The fact that the tool required is a feather does not occur to people whose only tool is a hammer.

    The close relationship between the government and banks and corporations means their needs (wants) come long before the needs of the general populace.

    The key to ‘good’ governance is to keep up the pretence that ministers actually care about the welfare of the ‘proles’, when in fact they don’t. The other key to ‘good’ governance is to ensure that sufficient ‘breadcrumbs’ fall of the ‘elites’ table to prevent revolt; the ‘correct’ level of unemployment and poverty for the times.

    Successful election campaigns are predicated on making promises that can never be fulfilled, and conning the masses into believing they can have a bigger share of the national ‘cake’….. a “better, brighter future” and all that.

    Now that the cake is diminishing and climate chaos is burgeoning, Jacinda and Grant are faced with ‘problems’ the old (worn-out) formulae are not capable of covering up, nor of solving.

    2021 will be a more ‘interesting’ year than 2020, as the wheels fall off mainstream narratives all over the world, and politicians are see to be worse-than-useless twits -commencing with Boris Johnson.

  4. Am I about to agree with Chris Trotters grim and seemingly over the top warnings about white lash – the reaction of the white working class against woke politics?
    Kind of – it is something that has remained at the back of my mind since the BLM protests kicked off in the US – and it goes something like this – over 1000 people a year are killed by US police – while African Americans are definitely disproportionately affected what about the rest https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/

    Dare I say it what about the white and Hispanic victims of police shootings? Would BLM be a more powerful and effective force if it combined with these other groups who are also victims of police brutality?
    Those who dig into the statistics of police brutality and incarceration in the US point out the obvious disproportionate treatment of Black Americans but the other overriding statistical feature in all of this is poverty. It is the poor whites, Hispanics and Blacks who end up at the sharp end of the criminal justice system in overwhelming numbers.
    The sharp focus on racial issues (valid though it is) – in effect masks a possible more pernicious problem which is a hatred of the poor.
    Was Don Brash’s speech about the un fairness of helping Maori via the Waitangi Tribunal or was it really about helping a people trapped in generational poverty? The Waitangi Tribunal was as much about wealth redistribution and correcting economic injustice as it was about amending historic colonial brutality.
    Are Maori over represented in prison and crime statistics because of their skin color or because of their prevailing socio economic position? By that I’m not trying to deny that racism exists but questioning whether it is the primary or only factor at play.
    This is where I think Chris Trotter’s tirades come in and I think the election of a Trump type figure is what he is foreseeing and warning us about.
    What happens when you tell a white working class individual who is struggling to survive and get by and who comes from a family history of poverty and struggle that they are benefiting from their white privilege? I imagine this person is going to get resentful and say to themselves WTF are you talking about.
    For all the hysteria about Trumps racism one of his key messages (Michael Moore was the only on pick up on this) was on the economic position of the working class. He spoke to them directly about their economic predicament – low wages, jobs being shipped off shore and he made threats to punish US corporation’s who did this. He also said something that really stood out for me – “I love the uneducated. They are my people.”
    This is something the middle class absolutely cannot stand because educational attainment is seen as the justification for all kinds of social ills. You know the argument – but they just need to do better in school and everything will be ok because of “equal opportunity”.
    The only other political reference of support for the uneducated (that I could find) comes from the US civil rights movement.

    I am somebody.
    I am a child of God.
    I may not be educated but I am somebody.
    I may not have any money but I am somebody.
    I may not eat steak every day but I am somebody.
    I may not look the way you look but I am somebody.

    Is it time for the left to regain it’s economic principles and arguments as these are the ones that bring the most significant change to the most people? If you’re against racism in NZ what would be of greater material benefit to Maori (and Pakeha) to have a strong, supportive and well funded welfare state or alternately having a handful of Maori sitting as board members on big NZ companies or Iwi trusts?
    If you’re a feminist – what will help all women in NZ more – a fully funded, comprehensive and free at the point of delivery health service or alternately a handful of women in cabinet?
    If you need an example of what happens to people who start making a noise and asking these hard questions you need go no further than Metiria Turei – former Green Party co-leader. Probably the greatest left wing politician we never had. The vitriolic hatred that erupted like a long suppressed turret’s tick from NZ’s middle and working classes was horrific and unanimous. “How dare this former beneficiary tell us what we should be doing to alleviate poverty in NZ.”
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/celebrities/99579343/guy-williams-governmentchanging-metiria-turei-is-my-kiwi-of-the-year
    I believe it is poverty and not race that obsesses working and middle class NZ. It just so happens that in most Western countries people of color are highly represented in the statistics for poverty.

    • …” If you need an example of what happens to people who start making a noise and asking these hard questions you need go no further than Metiria Turei – former Green Party co-leader. Probably the greatest left wing politician we never had. The vitriolic hatred that erupted like a long suppressed turret’s tick from NZ’s middle and working classes was horrific and unanimous. I believe it is poverty and not race that obsesses working and middle class NZ. It just so happens that in most Western countries people of color are highly represented in the statistics for poverty”…

      ————-

      Ah yer reached the cockles of me heart. And I believe you reached the very heart of the issue. I’m awarding you a song.

      May God above, send down his love,
      with swords as sharp as sickles,
      to cut the throats of gentlefolks,
      who grudge poor men their victuals.
      “To the Editor of The Bristol Mercury” (1830)

      And heres the Johnny Collins version…

      Oh Lord above, send down a dove,
      With wings as sharp as razors
      To cut the throats of them there blokes
      Wot sells bad beer to sailors

      Sailor’s Prayer by Johnny Collins
      https://youtu.be/NrAUbJGLZqo?t=5

  5. Why is there an assumption that the government not paying a Christmas bonus to beneficiaries is anti-Maori or racist in motivation? Over 630,000 New Zealanders receive some form of welfare payment over a year (excluding superannuation). The vast majority are not Maori, 64% in fact.

    • My assumption, Daphna, is based on the other 36 percent.

      The Scandinavian experience in regard to the public endorsement of social welfare is very similar to our own. When the welfare state was for ethnic Swedes, Norwegians, Danes and Finns, the political buy-in was impressive. When the “home-state” began to include refugees and immigrants from other parts of the world – not so much.

      Social-democracy and diversity do not appear to mix.

      • When I worked in security, there was an ‘elderly’ Indian chap ( who I quite liked ) who was relatively recent to NZ, … who was drawing the military pension from India ( was a major fighting the Tamil Tigers ) , the pension from NZ, – and also working for the same security firm I was.

        Never paid a cent in taxes to NZ for most of his working years because he didn’t live here. Until he and his wife decided to emigrate to NZ. So he paid a tiny amount in his golden years as he looked forward to his NZ pension.

        That OK with you Mr Trotter?

        And here’s the kicker : he described those from Southern India as ‘ thieves’.

        Got to love it , dont ya.

        ————–

        …” When the “home-state” began to include refugees and immigrants from other parts of the world – not so much.

        Social-democracy and diversity do not appear to mix”…

        —————

        Excluding refugees, – do you really think many of these freeloaders should get a hand out over our own nationals? Or have I read this wrong?

      • “Diversity” through immigration was designed to undermine egalitarian social democracy in New Zealand. But we don’t need to let it happen that way. We don’t need to fall into the trap that the Lange/Douglas Labour government dug for us. Labour figured that a lot of ethnic diversity and a little bit of ethnic tension would be good for the colonial state and economy. Trouble is that “a little bit of ethnic tension”, just like “a little bit of Covid”, is not a viable objective. But we have to deal intelligently with what colonialism, in its folly or iniquity, has delivered to us, and the way to do that is to reject racism entirely.

  6. Pakeha New Zealanders living in “the provinces” are not nearly so racist as they have been made out to be. Racism tends to flourish among those who have little or no contact with other ethnic groups. That suggests that it is not a natural organic phenomenon but has been cultivated by those with an interest in promoting ethnic division – to be specific, the colonialist regime. Pakeha living in rural communities know their Maori neighbours, depend upon them in diverse ways, and on the whole love and respect both Maori and Maoritanga.
    The situation is not grim. Jacinda will make her own choices of course. She may choose to try to keep Maori on a tight rein and under-resourced. But that will be her choice, not something to be pinned on Pakeha as a whole.
    The project for Maori wards in local government is a good one with revolutionary implications. The mistake is that it is not promoted as being revolutionary. If we were to argue that not only Maori, but every single citizen should be able to choose where their community of interest lies when it comes to choice of governance, then Pakeha and others would see a huge advantage to themselves in this fundamental political reform.
    The left has no appetite for revolutionary change and lacks the courage to confront colonialism, so it will stay with Jacinda while Jacinda stays with the colonialist system and the Five Eyes alliance, both of which face certain destruction.
    So Chris, what you are suggesting is absolute folly. Now is the time to ratchet up the attack on colonialism and to bring all Maori and Pakeha into the revolutionary struggle for the destruction of colonialism and the restoration of kotahitanga, mana motuhake and rangatiratanga.

  7. I have an idea, and like all my ideas it’s brilliant.
    We re-nationalise our hydro electricity generation and use those new found funds to turn the Tiwai smelter racket into the worlds largest Ecstasy / LSD manufacturing plant in our planet.
    End of racism. End of poverty. End of violence. End of fear. End of Hate. End of meat eating. End of the military industrial racket.
    Would be reported on the media : ” Man seen getting out small penis then getting out big gun was given Ecstasy …. Man was last seen marrying a fence post called Judith. He was heard to cry as he flung his gun into the sea… “ I’m not postist damn it to Hell! I love my Judith and I don’t care who knows! “
    If freaks like the Regans came up with the absurdity that was “Just say no” then we must spare a moment to pause to ponder where that got us. I say it’s about time to just say ‘Yes!”
    One last thing? Here’s a mantra for all you piss heads out there heading into domestic violence season:
    “ Pot Not Hops !”

  8. NZ racists seem to have a long amount to go before catching up with the rest of the worlds most racist countries.

    Top 10 Most Racist Countries in The World
    https://infotainworld.com/top-10-most-racist-countries-in-the-world/

    The most racist countries in the world
    https://businesstech.co.za/news/lifestyle/116644/the-most-racist-countries-in-the-world/

    https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/most-racist-countries

    We have to import them in like Tarrent with the woke all for it, it seems.

  9. Why do the left have this white savior mentality when they racistly act like all beneficiaries are brown. Most kiwis don’t think that , maybe they did but they don’t, there was next to zero push back from the public when the govt raised benifits by $20 and doubled WEP apart from libertarians, consersative Maori like Soimon and the left who were brutally against it cos it wasn’t enough, which it wasn’t.

    Most kiwis post covid are ok with benifits going up some more cos they know they are a bad week away from being on one.
    The fact Labour has refused to rule out rises before Xmas has everything to do with classism and our Political establishment being stuck in the 80s not our citizens.

    Id like to give Labour the benifit of the doubt and say that the reason they are waiting til budget month to do something on benefit rates because they have played fast and loose with money this year but I think there’s a lack of political will/real life experience about welfare (granted the ministers mother was on welfare)

    There are people who benny bash but they are increasingly in the minority , people are too worried about how they going to pay their mortgages, rents and feed their families to scapegoat others doing it tough. It’s not the mid 2000s and despite the minority of trolls on the left and right who hate nz society as someone whose traveled around the world, yes we have a lot to do to make things fairer and to enshrine Maori history and culture, we are probably the most successful multicultural society on the planet, we shit on each other but we need each other. However, we are indeed a classist and snobby country.

    • Fundamentally Kiwi workers just work way to hard and are inadequately compensated for that labour. No matter who you are or where you come from, if you can secure yourself a permanent 40hr a week job it ought to be celebrated with an above minimum wage, RDO’s (rostered days of), sick days, holiday pay, 15% employer contribution to super, 1.6% mortgage rate subsidy, work place reintegration & light duties policy for seriously sick or injured to keep their job long term, childcare subsidy. These are just some of the things a component union would work on for the $5 or what ever membership fee.

  10. king Cyrus the Great
    In 539 B.C., less than a century after its founding, the legendary Persian king Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon. The fall of Babylon was complete when the empire came under Persian control.

    ————–

    Fall of Babylon – Wikipedia
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_Babylon
    Wikipediaen.wikipedia.org › wiki › Fall_of_Babylon

    ————–

    How would the Babylonian citizenry have felt with the overrunning of their empire by the Assyrians?

    Conquest, subjugation, exploitation, torture, racism , genocide , ‘cultural appropriation’ etc is as old as humanity itself. Do we dare to contradict history and in doing so the unchanging heart of mankind? And do we dare to exert that we are more ‘intelligent’ and enlightened than our ancestors 5000 years distant? Do we say that we are more ‘enlightened ‘ and that ‘political sophistication ‘ in the 21rst century is more advanced?

    Lets look at Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler , apartheid South Africa, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq to name a few…

    All we are doing is warding off the natural tendencies of humankind towards self destruction. It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves…

    It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves
    https://youtu.be/MF_4EWSuzQY?t=24

  11. It depends on where you define your distinctions. I see it as people who see themselves as productive citizens who contribute to society disliking (actively or passively) people whom they perceive as less- or un-productive and not contributing their fair share. This applies across the board at all levels of NZ society.
    One of the possible good things to come out of the pandemic could be new ideas and flexible mechanisms to allow many more people to be productive and fairly recompensed for their efforts in other ways than the traditional 40 hours a week workplace model.

  12. Frank the Tank: “For someone with inbuilt prejudice this is positive reinforcement of their positions. The woke don’t get this because they don’t nor were programmed to think this way.”

    Everybody has biases and prejudices. Yea, verily, even the woke. Some might say, especially the woke.

    But I agree with you: emphasising the differences between peoples may well have the unintended consequence of driving them further apart.

    “….the sudden use of Maori language as an attempt to promote oneself as non racist….”

    I understood this to be an attempt to promote more widespread use of the language: part of the revitalisation programme. But your interpretation may well be right.

    However. Unless Maori themselves put the grunt into producing native speakers, the language will ultimately be lost. If there aren’t now native speakers, the language is dead. No amount of sprinkling it about will save it, either, absent those native speakers.

  13. It’s those gun toting redneck south islanders again eh.
    Weren’t they going to have a revolution in Gore in one of your past offerings?
    And how dare people think badly of gangs, you know, the ones selling meth to our kids and raping and murdering and actually doing the vast majority of gun crime, more since the left attacked NZ, mainly working class, licensed gun owners.

    How about sheeting home the blame for inequality where it lies currently: the Labour government running policy that inflates house prices such that the poorest brownest suburbs now have houses worth a million dollars or more.
    That’s subjugation and it’s being done by the left with no asking.

  14. Kia ora Chris I will have to agree with you. The only way for the Natz to win in 2023 is to play the Maori race card. Dwell on the prejudices of NZers and watch like Don Brash did and see Natz go from 25% to 47% in the polls. Brash only just lost that election but if the Natz get John Key look alike Chris Luxon as leader, he should pull it off. Middle NZ will be scared and uncomfortable by the prominence of the Maori party and the Labour and Greens Maori caucus. It will be dirty politics as usual by the Tories.

    • IT is early days but based on the performance so far many will be so disappointed in both the main parties so the 2 small parties may seem more attractive to those that care.

  15. The vast majority of people in industrialised nations consume far more than they produce. Indeed, the vast majority hardly produce anything other than CO2-enriched air, urine and feces. .

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