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3/20/2017 5:03:23 PM
Posted: 11/20/2001 6:52:27 AM EDT
I have not had a chance to read de Tocqueville's entire [u]Democracy in America[/u] written in 1831-32. However, I did just read probably the most accurate prophecy (actually well-educated analysis) I have ever seen. I repeat it here for those like me who've never seen it: (T)he species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world; our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories. I seek in vain for an expression that will accurately convey the whole of the idea I have formed of it; the old words despotism and tyranny are inappropriate: the thing itself is new, and since I cannot name, I must attempt to define it. I seek to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear in the world. The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest; his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, he is close to them, but he does not see them; he touches them, but he does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country. Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living? Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things;it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits. (cont'd)
Link Posted: 11/20/2001 6:54:23 AM EDT
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd. I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom, and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people. Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions: they want to be led, and they wish to remain free. As they cannot destroy either the one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once. They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large who hold the end of his chain. By this system the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master and then relapse into it again. A great many persons at the present day are quite contented with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the people; and they think they have done enough for the protection of individual freedom when they have surrendered it to the power of the nation at large. This does not satisfy me: the nature of him I am to obey signifies less to me than the fact of extorted obedience. I do not deny, however, that a constitution of this kind appears to me to be infinitely preferable to one which, after having concentrated all the powers of government, should vest them in the hands of an irresponsible person or body of persons. Of all the forms that democratic despotism could assume, the latter would assuredly be the worst. (cont'd)
Link Posted: 11/20/2001 6:55:39 AM EDT
When the sovereign is elective, or narrowly watched by a legislature which is really elective and independent, the oppression that he exercises over individuals is sometimes greater, but it is always less degrading; because every man, when he is oppressed and disarmed, may still imagine that, while he yields obedience, it is to himself he yields it, and that it is to one of his own inclinations that all the rest give way. In like manner, I can understand that when the sovereign represents the nation and is dependent upon the people, the rights and the power of which every citizen is deprived serve not only the head of the state, but the state itself; and that private persons derive some return from the sacrifice of their independence which they have made to the public. To create a representation of the people in every centralized country is, therefore, to diminish the evil that extreme centralization may produce, but not to get rid of it. I admit that, by this means, room is left for the intervention of individuals in the more important affairs; but it is not the less suppressed in the smaller and more privates ones. It must not be forgotten that it is especially dangerous to enslave men in the minor details of life. For my own part, I should be inclined to think freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones, if it were possible to be secure of the one without possessing the other. Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately. It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated; whereas that obedience which is exacted on a few important but rare occasions only exhibits servitude at certain intervals and throws the burden of it upon a small number of men. It is in vain to summon a people who have been rendered so dependent on the central power to choose from time to time the representatives of that power; this rare and brief exercise of their free choice, however important it may be, will not prevent them from gradually losing the faculties of thinking, feeling, and acting for themselves, and thus gradually falling below the level of humanity. I add that they will soon become incapable of exercising the great and only privilege which remains to them. The democratic nations that have introduced freedom into their political constitution at the very time when they were augmenting the despotism of their administrative constitution have been led into strange paradoxes. To manage those minor affairs in which good sense is all that is wanted, the people are held to be unequal to the task; but when the government of the country is at stake, the people are invested with immense powers; they are alternately made the play things of their ruler, and his masters, more than kings and less than men. After having exhausted all the different modes of election without finding one to suit their purpose, they are still amazed and still bent on seeking further; as if the evil they notice did not originate in the constitution of the country far more than in that of the electoral body. (cont'd)
Link Posted: 11/20/2001 6:56:27 AM EDT
It is indeed difficult to conceive how men who have entirely given up the habit of self-government should succeed in making a proper choice of those by whom they are to be governed; and no one will ever believe that a liberal, wise, and energetic government can spring from the suffrages of a subservient people.2 A constitution republican in its head and ultra-monarchical in all its other parts has always appeared to me to be a short-lived monster. The vices of rulers and the ineptitude of the people would speedily bring about its ruin; and the nation, weary of its representatives and of itself, would create freer institutions or soon return to stretch itself at the feet of a single master. (end)
Link Posted: 11/20/2001 7:11:15 AM EDT
Yes, indeed some interesting analogs can be made to what we face today within our own government. Still, in some of the more sever "predictions" (or observations) on must recall that the authors perspecvtive, his foundation in "democracy" is the French model which screamed through the various phases and into empire and despotism with surprising speed.
Link Posted: 11/20/2001 7:38:33 AM EDT
Originally Posted By jhasz: Yes, indeed some interesting analogs can be made to what we face today within our own government. Still, in some of the more sever "predictions" (or observations) on must recall that the authors perspecvtive, his foundation in "democracy" is the French model which screamed through the various phases and into empire and despotism with surprising speed.
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And we're just slouching towards it?
Link Posted: 11/20/2001 8:02:45 AM EDT
Yet, [b]KBaker[/b], in [i]Democracy In America[/i], Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, [b]'the religious atmosphere of the country was the first thing that struck me on arrival in the United States.'[/b] (at page 295, in my copy.) This simple and straightforward pronouncement resonates throughout the book, as Tocqueville repeatedly marvelled at the number of American sects, at their mutual toleration, and at the focus on morality almost to the exclusion of doctrine. And he visited America at the height of the 'Second Great Awakening.' All sorts of Christian revivals were sweeping across the country in 1831 bringing reform to the oldest cities and most primitive frontier areas. So it certainly can't be that Tocqueville was shielded from this revivalist spirit in America. He was intrigued by it, having come from a part of the world where Christianity was in serious danger of becoming a religion for the dead and dying. Here, in America, it was alive again! It was resurrected in the New World, in full vigor. Eric The('Dead-jew-on-a-stick'SeemsToHaveHadSomeEffectOnOldAlexis)Hun­[>]:)]
Link Posted: 11/20/2001 8:38:29 AM EDT
Originally Posted By EricTheHun: Yet, [b]KBaker[/b], in [i]Democracy In America[/i], Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, [b]'the religious atmosphere of the country was the first thing that struck me on arrival in the United States.'[/b] (at page 295, in my copy.) This simple and straightforward pronouncement resonates throughout the book, as Tocqueville repeatedly marvelled at the number of American sects, at their mutual toleration, and at the focus on morality almost to the exclusion of doctrine. And he visited America at the height of the 'Second Great Awakening.' All sorts of Christian revivals were sweeping across the country in 1831 bringing reform to the oldest cities and most primitive frontier areas. So it certainly can't be that Tocqueville was shielded from this revivalist spirit in America. He was intrigued by it, having come from a part of the world where Christianity was in serious danger of becoming a religion for the dead and dying. Here, in America, it was alive again! It was resurrected in the New World, in full vigor. Eric The('Dead-jew-on-a-stick'SeemsToHaveHadSomeEffectOnOldAlexis)Hun­[>]:)]
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Ok, Eric. I did apologize in the other thread for the DJOAS comment. It was crass. I should not have used it. However, until we as a species adopt a moral code separate from our religions (tolerance among the sects being a good start), we're going to keep having religious wars. Now that we've got nations religiously based who have nukes, the next Jihad/Crusade could get radioactive. Also, we seem to have drifted away from morality whether in conjuntion with religion or not. My point was that Christianity does not equal morality. Proclaiming oneself Christian does not mean that person is moral, and not being Christian does not mean that person is [i]not[/i] moral. Oh, and he marvelled at the number of guns in private hands and the general quality of marksmanship, too.
Link Posted: 11/20/2001 9:06:56 AM EDT
Thank you, [b]KBaker[/b], you seem to be a right knowledgable fellow, and I can work with that! I too will remove my remarks. Eric The(HeForgivesYouToo!)Hun[>]:)]
Link Posted: 11/20/2001 6:39:51 PM EDT
Originally Posted By EricTheHun: Thank you, [b]KBaker[/b], you seem to be a right knowledgable fellow, and I can work with that! I too will remove my remarks. Eric The(HeForgivesYouToo!)Hun[>]:)]
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No problem, Eric. I note that you had no comment on Alexis' prediction of our gradual reduction of liberty "till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd." I thought that was about the most prophetic thing I'd ever read when it came to our system of government. It pretty much floored me. This part, too: "It is indeed difficult to conceive how men who have entirely given up the habit of self-government should succeed in making a proper choice of those by whom they are to be governed; and no one will ever believe that a liberal, wise, and energetic government can spring from the suffrages of a subservient people." Remarkably illustrated by the fact that, for most of us who vote, "none of the above" is what we'd like to see on the ballot, and that in the last election a large number of voters were so ignorant that they couldn't even vote properly, and had their ballots invalidated!
Link Posted: 11/20/2001 8:10:42 PM EDT
[b]KBaker[/b], I had no comment because I thought that you had pretty much said it all. Well, both you and Alexis had said it all! It was what really floored me years ago, when that jackass Clinton got elected president. I had hoped that our country was just about to turn a corner, but in a positive direction. He gets elected,l our direction go altered, and I pretty much thought about writing off the Republic. But then I thought about President Reagan's speech to his campaign workers at the GOP National Convention back in 1976, when it became obvious that he was not going to be able to upset Ford, who on his way to being the party's presidential nominee. He told them to not be worried about his loss and what it might mean for the country, that they could feel safe knowing that the way they felt about our country, was the same way that millions of Americans like themselves also felt about this country. It will take several terms, by several Presidents, before the stains are removed from the Oval Office. Eric The(BothFigurativelyAndLiterally)Hun[>]:)]
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 7:30:13 AM EDT
BTT for those who missed it yesterday.
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 8:27:12 AM EDT
de Tocqueville was unusually prescient for a frenchman. As far as your desire adopt a moral code separate from religion, communism and nazism are two good examples of where this was tried. Religion in the equation does not necessarily make things bad, just as taking them out does not necessarily make things rosy.
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 8:38:49 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 11/21/2001 8:31:37 AM EDT by KBaker]
Originally Posted By imposter: de Tocqueville was unusually prescient for a frenchman. As far as your desire adopt a moral code separate from religion, communism and nazism are two good examples of where this was tried. Religion in the equation does not necessarily make things bad, just as taking them out does not necessarily make things rosy.
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If you'll read [i]very carefully[/i] you'll note that I have never, ever, even suggested that "religion in the equation makes things bad". I have stated that our society is A) [i]moving away[/i] from religion, and some are B) rejecting religiously-based morality [i]because[/i] it's religiously based. My entire thesis is that the Christian morality is a pretty good one, but that unless we find a rational basis by which to support it we are going to splinter as a culture. About the only thing detrimenal to religion that I [i]have[/i] said is that it has repressed science and is still trying to do so. And none of this has anything to do with de Tocqueville and his prediction of how America will succumb to "become a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd." Alexis had nothing to say concerning religion in this section.
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 9:12:14 AM EDT
Originally Posted By KBaker: If you'll read [i]very carefully[/i] you'll note that I have never, ever, even suggested that "religion in the equation makes things bad".
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That was kind of the implication, but if it was false, no problem. Thankyou for clarifying.
I have stated that our society is A) [i]moving away[/i] from religion
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Perhaps, but that is not universal and statistics will tell you that America is becoming [i]more[/i] religious. I agree that does not necessarily mean more moral.
My entire thesis is that the Christian morality is a pretty good one, but that unless we find a rational basis by which to support it we are going to splinter as a culture.
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Why can't morality be religiously [i]and[/i] rationally based? I doubt you are going to get everyone interested in any one moral system; better to have a number of systems that people can choose from. But I think you are right that too many people are choosing to do without morality altogether. My concern is that rational morality too often becomes rationalized morality. Logic can be manipulated to produce some pretty ugly results. It is hard enough to avoid that problem when all the "answers" are already written down in scripture. I'm sorry if I am just being critical, because I do not see any clear answers to the problem.
And none of this has anything to do with de Tocqueville and his prediction of how America will succumb to "become a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd." Alexis had nothing to say concerning religion in this section.
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Right, I think that Eric(Can'tGetJesusOffMyMind)brought all that up. Thanks for posting the de Tocqueville quote. Much to ponder there. I think that what jhasz had to say about the difference between how Americans and Frenchmen is pertinent; the word "equality" has had very different meanings for the two cultures.
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 9:18:37 AM EDT
IS't this guy from France. Disrespect of the American method of government by someone whose nation became sheep while trying to be a democracy. Yes, the U.S. of A. does appear to be heading toward sheep-like citizens but I fail to see where this FROG is soooooo right about the USA. We are capable of great things in this nation and to be analyized by someone from a century ago and a nation which denies the great sacrifices made to allow them the restoration of their government makes me sick. I should lighten up but 3yrs in the A.F. in northern France still gets under my skin.
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 9:42:34 AM EDT
Post from imposter -
Right, I think that Eric(Can'tGetJesusOffMyMind)brought all that up.
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That's Eric The(Can'tGetJesusOffMyMind)[u]Hun[/u] to you Sir! But what a lovely thing to say about yours truly. I was simply chiding KBaker for a previous post on another thread, with my comments, but why would that bother [b]you[/b]? He has forgiven me, the Lord has most likely forgiven me, can you find it in your heart to forgive me as well? I mean, Lord knows, we wouldn't want to know that the most astounding thing the French gentleman noted about Americans were their religious passions! Eric The(PardonMeAgain,[i][b]Monsieur[/b][/i])Hun[>]:)]
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 9:54:44 AM EDT
Originally Posted By Voodoo17: IS't this guy from France. Disrespect of the American method of government by someone whose nation became sheep while trying to be a democracy. Yes, the U.S. of A. does appear to be heading toward sheep-like citizens but I fail to see where this FROG is soooooo right about the USA. We are capable of great things in this nation and to be analyized by someone from a century ago and a nation which denies the great sacrifices made to allow them the restoration of their government makes me sick. I should lighten up but 3yrs in the A.F. in northern France still gets under my skin.
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Yes, you should lighten up. Alexis de Tocqueville travelled through America in 1831-32 and recorded what he saw, then analyzed it. Marie Curie was French, too, but that didn't affect her ability to study radioactivity. De Tocqueville accurately analyzed the one true weakness of our system of government - the tendency to legislate [i]everything[/i] in the name of the public good, the tendency of the citizens to look to Government for all guidance and protection, the gradual removal of each and every right "for the children". The fact that we are doing to [i]ourselves[/i] and thus don't complain that some outside force is imposing tyrrany on us. Even you admit we're heading towards being (if we're not now) "sheep-like citizens". Ignore the source. Re-read the prediction. It's scary.
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 10:49:03 AM EDT
de Tocqueville's analysis was (and is) unusually perceptive, prescient, and wise. It remains to be seen if this alarming and gloomy prophecy will be fulfilled. The silver lining to the events of 9/11 very well may be the spiritual revival of the ideals of America. We have hroes again, and the sophists of the Left are rendered mute. Both ends of the political spectrum stnd united in their concern that the civil liberties, the rule of law, and the unique condition of Christian tolerance of others' beliefs that made America into a great nation, will be abridged. The singularly unique factor of sociology in America is that even immigrants are eventually seen as Americans. In any other nation, third and fourth generation immigrants are still seen as 'straight off the boat.' de Tocqueville was also quoted as saying, "America is great because America is good. If America ceases to be good, America shall cease to be great." Look at the tremendous outpouring of blood and treasure following the events of 9/11. Individuals who never would have thought of owning firearms purchased them in record numbers. An additional percentage of the half-asleep general population woke up, took a look around, and asked, "What has happened in America.....?" While admittedly, many will happily go back to sleep, a portion, just like in the wake of Y2K, have had their eyes opened, never to be closed again. Thank God, and His Son, Jesus. Mya They bless this Republic.
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 11:33:39 AM EDT
De Tocqueville merely recognized the specific applications in a young America; numerous commentators before and since noted this paradox. Liberty is a burden to bear for far to many. If any republic, indeed any governmental structure, exists for any length of time, the desire for security overrides the desire for liberty. It certainly is helped along by the rapacious appetites of those men who seek power, with out regard for either. Erich Fromm, though a commutarian, had some excellent insights on this trait in [I]Escape From Freedom[I]. I’ve mentioned this before, but we are the luckiest society alive; as those who formed this government realized the vast majority of mankind are fools. They sought to put in place a system that would buttress those predispositions. Unfortunately, the fools may be more foolish than they feared. One observation on religion, though I am not particularly religious, being Catholic. as Imposter points out, religion does not necessarily contribute any more to corruption than any other aspect of society. Whether a society is based on religion, or economic policy, or philosophical principle, all are subject to debasement. In general, I’d feel much more at ease with Buddhists holding nuclear weapons than National Socialists. Better get used to conflict that involves parties with nuclear weapons; the genies out of the bottle and aint going back in. Think about who will have what in 50 years, which is well within my lifetime. Which does not mean we abdicate our responsibility and become insular. I prefer our system hands down. If someones left without a seat, Id strongly prefer it be elsewhere. Luck Alac In the end, the characteristics a society chooses for itself has less to do with utility and effectiveness than it does with fear and apathy.
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 11:41:31 AM EDT
Originally Posted By Alacrity: I’ve mentioned this before, but we are the luckiest society alive; as those who formed this government realized the vast majority of mankind are fools. They sought to put in place a system that would buttress those predispositions. Unfortunately, the fools may be more foolish than they feared.
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And the fools have the vote. Since the vast majority of mankind are fools, they kind of outnumber the non-fools, and democracy is based on 50% +1. This doesn't bode well. I think the original system set up under the Constitution at least tried to make sure the really foolish didn't vote. (No, I am not slandering women - I believe the initial requirement was that voters had to be property owners).
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 11:44:24 AM EDT
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 12:29:34 PM EDT
Kbaker and raf we are all preaching to the choir. As far as voting prerequisites, I prefer this idea want to vote - serve your country. Although its been prosposed in numerous forms, the most entertaining expansion of this idea Heinlein put forward in [i]Starship Troopers[/i]. To expose my bias Ive both served and am in Real Estate, so I'd be covered either way, and benefit from the one I'd argue against. I'd point out at the time of the Revolution, fully one third to one half of the colonists were loyalists (including Tench Coxe, amongst others). A quarter were fence sitters and only a small percentage actually took up arms against the British. It is often depth of conviction rather than a count of heads which rule the day. Regardless of the manner in which our countrymen vote, some freedoms are inalienable. I firmly beleive that the Founders understood that the worst threat to liberty are those to whom it is granted. They devised a system which decentralized power, in the hope that poor choices would be mitigated. In the end, they realized that, at some point, the cycle must renew itself. Luck Alac "Time makes more converts than reason." - Thomas Paine
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 12:47:07 PM EDT
Post from alacrity -
In general, I’d feel much more at ease with Buddhists holding nuclear weapons than National Socialists.
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Now that can't be! You know that Buddhists would simply think that nuclear destruction was just another turn of the wheel, and that it would all be restored anew one day! I want [b]atheists[/b] with their fingers on the nuclear trigger! [b]Atheists with wives and plenty of children[/b], to be precise! You can damn well better believe they'll never get us into an Armageddon-like situation! Eric The(There'sNo'Replay'ButtonOnThatMachine!)Hun­[>]:)]
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 1:11:39 PM EDT
Thanks Kbaker for a great post and furthering my interest in Tocqueville. this post got printed. i wonder how hard it would be to post the above in a newspaper. i doubt my local paper would publish it. remember [:D] the stature of Liberty is of a French women and given to us by France. reading lib
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 1:59:23 PM EDT
I was going to say "my pleasure", but considering the topic, I'll just say "you're welcome".
Link Posted: 11/21/2001 4:54:34 PM EDT
Im with Libertarian - forgot my manners - sehr gut post. It should be read often - but it has an archaic style and language. ETH - Perhaps, though atheism is no more a bulwark against megalomania than piety. My thought here was to draw a distinction between Nazi’s (whose leaders had little regard for life) and Mahayanists or Lamaists (who certainly tend to the opposite extreme). Most Buddhists wouldn’t believe it to be merely a turn of the wheel, and it certainly wouldn’t be “Right behavior”. You don’t see Buddhists trying to hasten nirvana any more than you see Christians trying to accelerate their entry though the Pearly Gates. If I’d grant the button to anyone it’d be Hugh Hefner – think how much he’s got to hate dying. Realize your jest though. Just not witty enough at present to do better. Luck Alac If you meet the Buddha on the Road - kill him.
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