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The fallacy of cultural relativism
Posted: 08 December 2007 11:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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ligh+bringer - 07 December 2007 01:32 AM

[quote author=“arildno”]no one can step outside his own culture and create a universal morality or code of ethics.

Stepping outside one’s culture may be possible, but I think the main point is that you can’t easily step into someone else’s and immediately become part of that culture.  There is a process of immersion and enculturation that is dependent on cultural distance. 
The grand effect of cultural relativism depends on cultural distance.  Where there is small cultural distance, the relative effects of culture are less.  Where there is great cultural distance, one must tread more carefully.

Again, this is based on the fallacious notion that “culture” is some existing, identifiable “thing” having rules of its own that can’t be challenged.

Every single individual DOES have the power to step outside of his own “culture” because he is not defined by it.

He does it the moment he experiences a whip lashing his body; to experience pain is a pre-cultural experience and ever present in all humans irrespective of their ambient “culture”, he does it the moment he revels in the simple joy of having sex;that particular pleasure, and many others, are also pre-cultural, existing irrespective within which culture the person is placed in.


The evolving “laws” of culture are mere pseudo-laws, and should not be portrayed in the manner of unchangeable natural laws.

I don’t see this as a means of restricting human behavior or bottling up morality, but just a guide for how to get things done.  If we are to reprimand other cultures for their moral failings, ignoring the relative effects of culture will not help but hinder.

Incorrect.

Already, any particular individual will be immersed in a whole lot of different mentalities, or “cultures” he switches allegiance to.

For example, he has a set of friends, a family that he treats in a completely different manner than, say, colleagues at work, or how he regards believers in a different faith.

Forcing an individual to see that, for example, a non-believer is a full human being, equal of worth as his friends and co-religionists is something that can be achieved in many ways.

For example by shaming him utterly for his fascist views.
Or make him terrified for his own safety of the ones he has regarded as sub-humans.

How do you think so many slaves in earlier times developed an intense devotion to their slave masters, acknowledging the master’s right to beat him if he “misbehaved”?

It was a rationalization borne out of the fear to be flogged and beaten, an example of an ugly survival mechanism that preserved a greater scope to experience happiness in an objectively dismal situation than if the rationalization had not taken place. Having a constant sense of the injustice of his own situation would have soured his life into an unbearable agony. Better to find joy when the master was happy and feel immense pride when master patted him on his head for being a “good boy”.

The threat of violence can do “wonders” about changing the mentality of someone else, and we should never forget that.
Violence, more than any other persuasion technique, is effective in changing peoples’ ideas, behaviours, emotions and thoughts.(That, of course, does not make violence automatically acceptable from a moral point of view..)

Similarly, a fascist can be scared, or shamed, out of his fascism.

It is much less likely he will change his views by meeting obsequious, “dialogoue”-seeking sub-humans.
After all, aren’t they behaving just as is proper for good slaves?

[ Edited: 08 December 2007 11:21 AM by arildno]
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Posted: 09 December 2007 03:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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ligh+bringer - 07 December 2007 01:32 AM

If you’re making this argument to allow for unilateral condemnation of religious groups I think it largely falls apart.

Well, it follows as (one of many) consequence as what I’m going to say that what religious folk fuss about most, namely preservation of “faith” cannot be regarded as a moral concern at all.
That does NOT mean they are behaving immorally, but that they have conflated proper moral concerns with what is not, and therefore are more likely to believe that blatantly immoral actions are moral.

Cultural relativists are alike religionists in fantasizing about “cultures” that we have some moral duty to preserve.

Again, culture preservation is NOT a moral concern at all.

It might on occasion (as with concerns for faith preservation) coincide with, and be in agreement with, moral concerns, but might just as well be directly opposed to moral concerns and oppose them.

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Posted: 09 December 2007 11:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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[quote author=“arildno”]Incorrect…Already, any particular individual will be immersed in a whole lot of different mentalities, or “cultures” he switches allegiance to.

Well that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t speak towards the correctness of my statement, nor is it supported by your notions of slavery, fascism, melting pots, or inertia.  These things don’t critique cultural relativism, they help make the case for it.

[quote author=“arildno”]The evolving “laws” of culture are mere pseudo-laws, and should not be portrayed in the manner of unchangeable natural laws.

Well that sentence collapses in on itself quite nicely.

If you’re saying cultures evolve, you’re saying their laws are changeable – in effect, constantly changing.  Cultural relativism is not a refutation, antagonist, or falsifier of any theory of cultural evolution.  To be sure, any realization of cultural evolution only underpins how powerful the relative effects of culture can be. 

[quote author=“arildno”]to experience pain is a pre-cultural experience and ever present in all humans irrespective of their ambient “culture”,

So now I suppose you’re going to try and convince us that zygotes feel pain.

Pain is everpresent, but how much pain have you gone through that comes with its own modicum of honor, stupidity, humor, or fun? – all things with greater and lesser degrees of cultural significance

It’s your pain.  Make the most of it.

[quote author=“arildno”]Every single individual DOES have the power to step outside of his own “culture” because he is not defined by it.

If you’re not defined by your culture then how do I know you’re from the UK? (I haven’t looked at your profile.)

People are defined by more than just their culture, but culture plays a part. Not always a big part, but sometimes it’s everything.

[quote author=“arildno”]So, according to your view, any union between two individuals constitute a morally sovereign zone which it is no business for others to meddle in, whether or not one of the persons within it agrees to the shape of that union or not.

Congratulations for having made the rape situation into a morally sovereign zone.

No!!

What’s your business is your business.  If it’s your business to step on other people’s cultures, then you better hope you’re doing it smartly, effectively, and efficiently. 

You really think cultural relativism would prevent me from stopping a rapist? 

Who’s taking away your rights here?  Who’s preventing you from taking any action?  It’s just you.

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Posted: 09 December 2007 11:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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Do you really think you could be dropped into any country in the world, and you and your universal moral code would immediately be greeted as liberators? 

Ignoring the fact that if I really did drop you at a random point on the earth’s surface you’d most likely die of drowning, exposure, dehydration, or starvation, you still have to face the bottom line that whatever local people you encounter, your first and foremost problem would simply be communicating with them.  How many languages can you speak?

It’s not a question of numbers, or of sovereignty, or slavery

It’s a question of cultural distance

Don’t you think that the difference between the U.S. and Canada is smaller than the difference between the U.S. and China?

Don’t you think the similarity between Minnesota and Wisconsin is comparable to the similarity between Alabama and Mississippi, while the difference between the four states is immense? 

You might think that, but the difference between Minnesota and Wisconsin is a lot bigger than you think, yet they’re right next to each other. Now how much more so between here and Madagascar?

It’s a lot like comparing whist to bridge.  Very similar games, but while you can play whist without a complete deck, probably not for bridge, and certainly not klondike solitaire or hearts.  The deck is not one hundred percent sovereign, nor are the rules.  When you play poker the dealer calls out wild cards and the type of hand each time – draw, stud, guts, hold ‘em.  Is the dealer than a hypergame master?

Obviously no matter what kind of hand you play it’s still poker, because of the similarity between the games.  But if all of a sudden somebody calls the next hand bridge, we’re not paying poker any more – the games just don’t relate at all (and we’re missing cards so lets just play suicide kings instead of jokers).  The cultural distance between poker and bridge is great enough that the internal criticism of poker shoots it down, but why then not the internal criticism of Texas hold ‘em to guts trips?  The magisteria overlap.

The distance is the determining factor.  Cultural relativism allows you to quantify cultural distance.  Claiming it’s a fallacy blinds you to it.

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Posted: 09 December 2007 11:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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As a descriptive tool, measuring distances betwen cultures is indispensable.

But that has nothing to do with morality, or moral judgments.

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Posted: 09 December 2007 11:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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“If you’re saying cultures evolve, you’re saying their laws are changeable – in effect, constantly changing. “
Nonsense.
The universe evolves, its laws do not, so your implication is invalid.

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Posted: 09 December 2007 07:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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Arildno, the more I think about this topic and your definitions of culture and sovereignty, the less inclined I am to believe that cultural sovereignty is even the issue.  Are you sure you’re not confusing cultural sovereignty with national sovereignty?  To use your earlier example, of stoning a woman to death as punishment:  is this tolerated by the west because it’s part of Muslim culture, or because it takes place in a sovereign nation?

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Posted: 10 December 2007 05:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 10 December 2007 12:34 AM

Arildno, the more I think about this topic and your definitions of culture and sovereignty, the less inclined I am to believe that cultural sovereignty is even the issue.  Are you sure you’re not confusing cultural sovereignty with national sovereignty?  To use your earlier example, of stoning a woman to death as punishment:  is this tolerated by the west because it’s part of Muslim culture, or because it takes place in a sovereign nation?

No confusion at all.

National sovereignty can be regarded as a provisional attitude on basis of the lack of resources/skill to force others into behaving morally.
You are still entitled to say you have the right to do so, but you just haven’t got the means to have it done.
National sovereignty is then an issue of Realpolitik, rather than “ideal” politics.

Equating national sovereignty with moral sovereignty would mean you do not acknowledge your moral right to interfere with actions going against your morality since it happens in a “sovereign” nation.

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Posted: 10 December 2007 09:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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arildno - 08 December 2007 02:28 PM

So, according to your view, any union between two individuals constitute a morally sovereign zone which it is no business for others to meddle in, whether or not one of the persons within it agrees to the shape of that union or not.

No. A conceptual union would require the minimum two members to agree mutually or by some bully-consenter or leader-follower arrangement. Without that agreement about the way things are, you have nothing.

Congratulations for having made the rape situation into a morally sovereign zone.

Thank you. Perhaps I have.

Consider two examples of rape:
First as an attack, as I imagine you are referring to. An attacker is imposing physical sovereignty over a victim who resists and tries to maintain their personal physical sovereignty. This example could include participants with no cultural morality whatsoever. In an act of passion (read: balls) and fear, the participants could hardly recall their cultural morality let alone consider whether their actions are consistent with it.

Now imagine a culture where everyone thinks that it’s fine for a middle age nobleman to be assigned a young teenage bride. If both do their duty, then perhaps you could call that a rape within a morally sovereign zone.

Rape, like so many things in our lives, are driven by balls. Cultures have always been pretty confused about just how to manage them.

Cultures were once much simpler affairs. If successful, sooner or later its new membership will include people who already had one and then the culture will include the oppressors and the oppressed. After centuries of combining, absorbing, blending and mutating, cultures can get a little wobbly on their foundations. Skepticism creeps into the membership.
Cultures can be built on almost anything. If someone doesn’t like a culture based on common language or cuisine, they can propose a new one based on genetic history or even just those who say “fiddlesticks” while facing north each night.

If there is a least number so that when the culture (oppressors+oppressed) exceeds that number then outsiders do NOT have the right to interfere in “internal affairs”, whereas if the culture is beneath that number, outsiders do have the right to interfere in the culture’s internal affairs.

What is the source of these outsider rights you refer to?

“Culture” is NOT some well-defined entity, nor will it ever be, and HENCE, it is just foolish to regard it as some type of absolute reason, some independently existing “thing”.
It is a mere generalization, a term loosely referring to a variety of practices, beliefs and individuals.
It certainly is not the ground of all being, and should never be portrayed as such, either.

This view hangs things up for a lot of people. I suggest it is why you are having trouble sorting out morality and sovereignty.

It is a linguistic issue, really. Our brains are to blame this time.

How can a thing be a thing without being a thing?

That’s the thing.

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Posted: 10 December 2007 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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arildno - 10 December 2007 10:25 AM

No confusion at all.

National sovereignty can be regarded as a provisional attitude on basis of the lack of resources/skill to force others into behaving morally.
You are still entitled to say you have the right to do so, but you just haven’t got the means to have it done.
National sovereignty is then an issue of Realpolitik, rather than “ideal” politics.

Equating national sovereignty with moral sovereignty would mean you do not acknowledge your moral right to interfere with actions going against your morality since it happens in a “sovereign” nation.

I’m not equating national sovereignty with moral sovereignty.  In fact, I’m not convinced such things exist as moral or cultural sovereignty. 

National sovereignty is not just a provisional attitude adopted by countries with insufficient might to act belligerently.  If anything, I think it’s an example of the “universal morality” you mentioned earlier.  Good fences make good neigbors.

My point is that I don’t think the west tolerates other cultures, as you claimed in your initial post.  I think the west respects other countries’ borders.  There are a few exceptions, of course, but if anything, these exceptions bolster the case for respecting neighboring fences.

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Posted: 10 December 2007 05:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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arildno - 09 December 2007 04:30 PM

As a descriptive tool, measuring distances betwen cultures is indispensable.

But that has nothing to do with morality, or moral judgments.

Oh, so it’s an indispensable fallacy that’s suffocating you.

You really can’t make this caveat without compromising your entire thesis.

arildno - 09 December 2007 04:32 PM

“If you’re saying cultures evolve, you’re saying their laws are changeable – in effect, constantly changing. “
Nonsense.
The universe evolves, its laws do not, so your implication is invalid.

No, your implication is invalid, since you said cultures evolve.

You have to argue that either a) There is no such thing as culture, b) Cultures don’t evolve, something else is going on, or c) cultures are a multiverse (the biggest stretch of all).

[quote author=“ligh+bringer”]If you’re not defined by your culture then how do I know you’re from the UK? (I haven’t looked at your profile.)

????

Are you from the UK or not? (I still haven’t looked at your profile.)

If I’m right, them my cultural relativism is working.

Your culture precedes you, despite how much you may not want it to.  You are defined by it and it is defined by you.  Decoupling yourself from your culture may be possible.  Mind you, you’d have a lot of work to do, and you may not be in a better position afterwards.  But within the context of this forum alone, you’d have to stop using words like “behaviour”, “maths”, and “whist”.  As long as you do, you demonstrate how your culture has an effect on you, and how that effect is different from mine.  That’s the essence of cultural relativism.

————————————————-

I just can’t abide by your attitude towards pain.

I’m willing to bet that if your heard the song Bloodcraft by Krisiun you would literally plug your ears.  I on the other hand would be jumping around the room throwing spinning kicks.

I love heavy metal music—most people can’t stomach it.  That doesn’t mean there is no pain involved with me listening to it, but that it takes on a whole different meaning – in what could be described as a subculture.

Getting a tattoo hurts.  But for those people with tons of tattoos, they’re practically addicted to the process.  The disturbance on the skin results in an endorphin release.  For them, the pain and the pleasure are one and the same.  Does that make it immoral to get a tattoo?  In some cultures the tattoo is a real stigma. In others it’s practically requisite. 

I don’t have any tattoos.  For me to experience the same pain as getting one would just hurt.  Simply inflicting pain has no bearing on its morality. 

How much pain did Kelly Pavlik have to go through to win the undisputed middleweight championship?

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Posted: 11 December 2007 02:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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Nhoj Morley - 10 December 2007 02:05 PM

“Culture” is NOT some well-defined entity, nor will it ever be, and HENCE, it is just foolish to regard it as some type of absolute reason, some independently existing “thing”.
It is a mere generalization, a term loosely referring to a variety of practices, beliefs and individuals.
It certainly is not the ground of all being, and should never be portrayed as such, either.

This view hangs things up for a lot of people. I suggest it is why you are having trouble sorting out morality and sovereignty.

It is a linguistic issue, really. Our brains are to blame this time.

How can a thing be a thing without being a thing?

That’s the thing.

Indeed.
That is why more people should study logic, maths&physics;in order to understand what WELL-defined concepts are.
Culture is not a well-defined concept.
Nor does it have any unambiguous references.

It is, basically, just a sloppy generalization.

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Posted: 29 December 2007 07:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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Nhoj Morley - 10 December 2007 02:05 PM
arildno - 08 December 2007 02:28 PM

So, according to your view, any union between two individuals constitute a morally sovereign zone which it is no business for others to meddle in, whether or not one of the persons within it agrees to the shape of that union or not.

No. A conceptual union would require the minimum two members to agree mutually or by some bully-consenter or leader-follower arrangement. Without that agreement about the way things are, you have nothing.

Congratulations for having made the rape situation into a morally sovereign zone.

Thank you. Perhaps I have.

Consider two examples of rape:
First as an attack, as I imagine you are referring to. An attacker is imposing physical sovereignty over a victim who resists and tries to maintain their personal physical sovereignty. This example could include participants with no cultural morality whatsoever. In an act of passion (read: balls) and fear, the participants could hardly recall their cultural morality let alone consider whether their actions are consistent with it.

Now imagine a culture where everyone thinks that it’s fine for a middle age nobleman to be assigned a young teenage bride. If both do their duty, then perhaps you could call that a rape within a morally sovereign zone.

Rape, like so many things in our lives, are driven by balls. Cultures have always been pretty confused about just how to manage them.

Cultures were once much simpler affairs.

Utterly wrong, and completely unfounded.

The reason why it may seem so is that we have a scarcity of evidence from earlier times; for example, people who couldn’t read or write have left very little of their ideas and attitudes that we can complexify our picture with.

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Posted: 29 December 2007 07:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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ligh+bringer - 10 December 2007 10:43 PM
arildno - 09 December 2007 04:30 PM

As a descriptive tool, measuring distances betwen cultures is indispensable.

But that has nothing to do with morality, or moral judgments.

Oh, so it’s an indispensable fallacy that’s suffocating you.

You really can’t make this caveat without compromising your entire thesis.

Eeh, no.
“Culture” is a bag term, it is not some type of enity towards which we have any type of moral obligations.

It is, for example, not immoral at all to destroy cultures, since cultures don’t have any rights to begin with.

arildno - 09 December 2007 04:32 PM

“If you’re saying cultures evolve, you’re saying their laws are changeable – in effect, constantly changing. “
Nonsense.
The universe evolves, its laws do not, so your implication is invalid.

No, your implication is invalid, since you said cultures evolve.

So, some particular attitudes can be seen to have gone through development over the time.
What has this got to do with what I wrote?

You have to argue that either a) There is no such thing as culture, b) Cultures don’t evolve, something else is going on, or c) cultures are a multiverse (the biggest stretch of all).

I’m saying “culture” is a loose bag term, containing many things.
This means, for example, that it is meaningless to state things like “one cannot step out of one’s culture”.
It is people who say these sort of things who are deeply muddled, not me.

[quote author=“ligh+bringer”]If you’re not defined by your culture then how do I know you’re from the UK? (I haven’t looked at your profile.)

????

Are you from the UK or not? (I still haven’t looked at your profile.)

If I’m right, them my cultural relativism is working.

Your culture precedes you, despite how much you may not want it to.  You are defined by it and it is defined by you.

Again, muddled fantasy language.

I just can’t abide by your attitude towards pain.

I’m willing to bet that if your heard the song Bloodcraft by Krisiun you would literally plug your ears.  I on the other hand would be jumping around the room throwing spinning kicks.

I love heavy metal music—most people can’t stomach it.  That doesn’t mean there is no pain involved with me listening to it, but that it takes on a whole different meaning – in what could be described as a subculture.

Eeh?
1. The fact that there exist some type of stimuli that are felt painful to some, and pleasant to others, does not at all refute the notion that there exist other stimuli that are universally felt to be painful.

2. Neither does our capacity for desensitization refute this.

Getting a tattoo hurts.  But for those people with tons of tattoos, they’re practically addicted to the process.  The disturbance on the skin results in an endorphin release.  For them, the pain and the pleasure are one and the same.  Does that make it immoral to get a tattoo?

Have I said that somewhere? 

In some cultures the tattoo is a real stigma.

Which is an immoral attitude, since there is nothing in the act of getting a tattoo which is necessarily disrespectful for others. Therefore, we are morally obliged to accept some people’s choices to get tattoos.

In others it’s practically requisite.

Also an immoral attitude, since there isn’t anything disrespectful towards others NOT to get a tattoo. Therefore, we are morally obliged to regard a person’s refusal to wear a tattoo as a moral act. 

I don’t have any tattoos.  For me to experience the same pain as getting one would just hurt.  Simply inflicting pain has no bearing on its morality.

A parent branding his infant with the emblem of his Sun God is guilty of an immoral act.

The point about pain is that we should always be cautious about inflicting it, precisely because it inflicts unhappiness on an individual, and we therefore had better have damn good reasons for inflicting that unhappiness on others.

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Posted: 29 December 2007 11:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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[quote author=“arildno”]It is, for example, not immoral at all to destroy cultures,

Congratulations for having made genocide into a morally sovereign zone.

[quote author=“arildno”]some particular attitudes can be seen to have gone through development over the time.
What has this got to do with what I wrote?

You tell me.  You wrote it.

If your entire theory of cultural evolution is merely that attitudes change then I suppose you envision this having no effect on the grand scale—that more than one person having the same change in attitude cannot possibly drive cultures farther apart distance wise.  Unfortunately this is exactly how evolution works.  I hope you find some way to reconcile that.

[quote author=“arildno”]Again, muddled fantasy language.

Again, refusing to answer my question.

Am I living in a fantasy world Arildno?  Are you really from Scranton, Ohio?

[quote author=“arildno”]Eeh?

Your confusion is not surprising.  You can expect more of that as long as you ignore the effects of culture.

[quote author=“arildno”]there is nothing in the act of getting a tattoo which is necessarily disrespectful for others.

I’m gonna get a tattoo that says “ARILDNO SUCKS”

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