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Politicole: The Inaccuracy And Lunacy Of ‘Xenophobia’

By NICOLE BURROWS

I am so tired of hearing people misuse the word “xenophobia” to suit their purpose or to sell their story.

It seems as if this word is trending, so anyone, including those with no knowledge of the real meaning of “xenophobia”, feel compelled to use it, to inject it into the normal course of dialogue in order to sound as if they know something. If they don’t use it because it’s trendy, they use it because it’s politically correct, and people are falling over themselves not to offend others with their own, rightful convictions.

I’ll state clearly: yes, there are people out there who do fear and people who do hate. But I hardly think that it is appropriate to apply this word to a majority of people every single time they express what they regard as valid reasons for their beliefs.

The reason this incenses me so is because I feel like we are living in a time – and if we’re not yet there in The Bahamas, we’re certainly moving in that direction – where people can’t even speak their minds or have legitimate disapprovals of something they find unacceptable without the trendy and politically correct telling them that there’s a problem with it.

Definitions

Webster’s Dictionary

PHOBIA - an extremely strong dislike or fear of someone or something

XENOPHOBIA - fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners, or of anything that is strange or foreign

Oxford English Dictionary

PHOBIA - an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something

XENOPHOBIA - dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries

If a Bahamian man says he does not like it that an illegal migrant has more legal or economic recourse than he in the country of his own birth, how does that equate to fear, let alone irrational fear, as per the definition of “xenophobia”? Are we not allowed to disagree or disapprove, or have dissenting opinions without someone slapping a retaliatory and inapplicable label on us? It seems, when you don’t like to hear what someone says, all you have to do these days is claim something is “inhumane” and the watchdogs let themselves out.

What about the new, fully qualified, fully capable Bahamian college graduate who can’t get a job in the offshore bank in The Bahamas, but the foreign wife of the foreign man associated with that bank has a job as the office manager? The Bahamian graduate is, of course, going to be displeased, and will express disapproval. What else is she supposed to do? Is that not her right in her country?

What about the Bahamian man who just had an idea for a business but he can’t make two steps because of the bureaucracy of government and finance, with respect to acquiring funding for his idea or venture, or to set up his business as a legitimate entity? Meanwhile, the external person who is native to another country can do it with ease ... and get concessions to boot? Should this Bahamian man not feel disgusted? Should he not disapprove?

I implore you, Bahamians and non-Bahamians; learn what these words with “phobia” on the end of them really mean. It is embarrassing that you either don’t know or you choose to ride the wave of the loud-mouthed who admonish people for hatred and prejudice when most times it is plain disapproval or dissatisfaction which they are more than entitled to possess. Expand your vocabularies. If you’re going to use a word, at least know the meaning of it. But you can’t stop there. Once you know the meaning of it, you need to know how and where to use it. Otherwise, it just comes off as follower syndrome.

We live in a country filled with people who – for those with resources – can take care of themselves, but who aren’t free in their thinking. We broke away from British rule. We’re on our own. We claim independence, but we can’t be independent without being free. Yet, there is precious little freedom of thought. Many Bahamians are still bound to herd theory and tribal practice, bound to stereotypes, bound to societal norms, bound to the expectations and interpretations of others, bound to the past, bound to insecurity and they band together to pick a fight about something that they don’t even understand or can’t even define properly. All they know is someone they know says it’s bad so they jump on that bandwagon to fight it. They could all be dead wrong, but it doesn’t matter because they are all subject to group think. Their crowd need only roar before they go for the jugular.

Until you can properly define the word “xenophobia” and all the other phobias, by the way, and have a clear understanding about what it is, you can’t have a coherent, productive, or progressive discussion about it. What ends up happening is that the misled or mistaken majority vilify their opposition and ultimately end up misrepresenting the legitimate plight of the people they claim to defend. How can anyone believe in or join your cause, when you aren’t even trying to understand their perspective? And you can’t understand their perspective, because you can’t understand the words you’re using? And there’s no excuse for not knowing. You can’t not know what these words mean because reputable dictionaries are online at your fingertips. So either you’re ignorant and negligent in your ignorance, or you are deliberately inciting confusion and discord with your words, every time you utter the word “xenophobia”.

One thing is for sure, if you keep doing this, you will alienate the people you’re trying to convince. They won’t be “on your run” if from the time the talking starts you’re already on the defensive.

As coarse as it sounds, Bahamians don’t want to hear about the plight of the unfortunate when: 1) they are unfortunate themselves, and 2) you are calling them names from the start. Get your act together if you want support for illegal immigrants. Get it together if you want Bahamians to regard the people you want to help as worthy of the attention you seek for them.

I don’t believe Bahamians don’t care about the plight of the foreigner, whether it’s a poor, Haitian migrant or a rich, Chinese investor. I truly believe Bahamians are passionate, caring people for the most part. Besides which, we all have foreign friends and family. Some of us are foreign ourselves. Truth be told, there are few peoples of the world who have been indigenous to their countries since humans began recording history.

If there’s any hating, disliking or extreme aversion to foreigners going on it is due to the fact that, in their homeland, Bahamians are second best, no matter who is in the campaign chariot. Bahamians’ issues with foreigners, in general, stem from what they perceive as a threat to their own national identity, not a hatred or fear of people. You can dislike the thing, without disliking the person.

Look at the picture. You’re struggling to determine who you are as a people and then struggling to develop and maintain that identity, and then here comes these other issues to disrupt that. In great part, it’s the fault of the people for not taking a stronger stance for what should matter most when it matters most, but it’s also the result of external pressures. Why are Bahamians required to be and do as the rest of the world says? As long as you don’t address that, or have that conversation with the Bahamian people, to their satisfaction, they’re sorry about your struggles, but why should they be any sorrier for yours when they are struggling too? How much of “us” do we compromise before “we” no longer exist?

Lynden Pindling started out believing in Bahamians. Along the way, The Bahamas became everyone else’s territory or playground. As a country, we lost ground from then to now and this is why Bahamians feel so displaced in their own land ... because it’s not their own land. What is the purpose of being a sovereign country, if you can’t, as a Bahamian, be first in your own country?

And, taking all this into consideration, no matter how many times you call them “xenophobic”, you will get nowhere with your message if you approach Bahamian people with an accusatory tone and an incorrect definition and application of “xenophobia”.

That said, some people just like to stir up trouble. You know them when you hear them.

But, for goodness sake, please, please retire this word “xenophobia” from your vocabularies, until you can understand and appreciate what it really means and to whom it truly applies.

Comments

birdiestrachan 2 years, 2 months ago

If it is true that Bahamians are xenophobia (which is not true) where would the Bahamas be? Very often we find ourselves in situations where we are the only Bahamian in the group. Go down town and you will believe you are at the UN. every one is speaking a foreign language. Bahamians are becoming the stranger in their own Country.

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sheeprunner12 2 years, 2 months ago

This is a classic column................... Burrows needs to hold a briefing with........ first the three political leaders, then the Cabinet, then the Ministries PS, then the COB & Christian Councils, then the Chamber of Commerce .......... Lord Jesus then every principal, teacher, pastor, psychologist, talk show host ...... mother, father .............. every prospective 2017 election candidate........... every Bahamian

This column best describes the problem with the rhetoric of the present black Bahamian elite

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pablojay 2 years, 2 months ago

Wonderful article Ms. Burrows. We all know Bahamians just like to use trending words or phrases and i am quite annoyed by this . Some of them are; ludicrous, god willing or god's willing,would have (for something that has already happened),going forward,etc,just to name a few.

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Zakary 2 years, 2 months ago

Excellent column!

The columnist is correct on the misuse and inaccuracy of the word ‘xenophobia’. This word and many words of a similar nature are purely academic with the purpose of identifying a phenomenon that does not have a name. In practice, they were never meant to be used at all except within academic literature.

It just so happens that academic words of this nature are very connotative (strong emotional meaning) and lack denotation (strong literal meaning). People actually do know the definition, but they use the word for its emotional effect, and this subsequently makes it a politically correct word. Politically correct words always sound good and provide excellent connotation - something that politicians like and make use of all the time.

  • Are we not allowed to disagree or disapprove, or have dissenting opinions without someone slapping a retaliatory and inapplicable label on us?

This is the purpose of a politically correct word. We heighten our focus on emotion and feelings at the expense of rational thought and personal responsibility. So when someone says something we dislike, we use a PC word to start an emotional war in order to cease all logical reasoning. The true problem or conflict never gets solved but only masked.

You can discredit someone very easily by calling him/her xenophobic, egoist, or fascist. The polarizing effect causes everyone to run for the hills.

That is why some say that political correctness prevents society from solving problems because to even begin reasoning is forbidden.

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Zakary 2 years, 2 months ago

The emotional hurt here is high, and regardless of what anyone says the writer is being intellectually honest, and I appreciate that.

However, the columnist will soon have to realize that dictionaries are mostly useless, and the meaning of a word is dictated by its usage and not its literal meaning. Yes that sounds crazy but it’s true. That’s why platforms like the urban dictionary exist, and the reason for dictionaries that span over many years such as Oxford.

The current societal definition of xenophobia is dislike, prejudice, or hostility towards foreigners. That’s not its original definition but definitions do change and that's just how the cookie crumbles. Is it a politically correct word? Yes, and you all saw my opinion above.

Summary:
Zak, you’re a xenophobic, racist, bigot and you don’t know what you’re talking about!
Yes Billy, now wait while I grab my dictionary, and hit you over the head with it...

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TruePeople 2 years, 2 months ago

bey i showin you. nuff english words dictionary meaning is different from it's actual use (and even at odds with it's latin root, suffix, prefix, whatever). I ein get caught up definition thing, but what is right is ppl need to have they point of view. The point about the oppression of political correctness is spot on, and just cus someone does have an opinion don't make it right to start call them names. Judge not y'all lest y'all want be judge

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Cas0072 2 years, 2 months ago

The overuse of the term xenophobia in the illegal Haitian immigrant/Bahamas context is intended to create a fake moral and intellectual high ground for illegal immigrant enablers once their arguments fail. I have long recognized this.

We share obvious similarities with Haiti, and whether by invitation or not, we have shared the same space with disproportionately high numbers of Haitians compared to any other nationality for decades. The only unknown with regard to Haitians in The Bahamas is exactly how many are illegal. Even if the high illegal immigrant figures thrown about are irrational and the stuff of imaginations, we face an uphill battle in finding out because, apparently, it is "xenophobic" for a country and its citizens to even want to know these things.

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sheeprunner12 2 years, 2 months ago

A very good and accurate observation ......... ask the average Haitian their impression of landing or visiting Long Island ....... they say we will kill and eat them ........... that is because Long Islanders do not harbour illegal immigrants

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My2cents 2 years, 2 months ago

It's not worth repeating. You still clearly misused the word.

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newcitizen 2 years, 2 months ago

It is not a misuse of the word. And well worth repeating. This country has a problem with how it deals with and treats foreigners. There is a hatred here and it is one of the things handicapping this country.

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My2cents 2 years, 2 months ago

It clearly is misused. Poor leadership, an uniformed electorate and corruption are some of the things handicapping this country, not xenophobia.

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a2z 2 years, 2 months ago

Clearly, newcitizen is foreign or of foreign origin. I don't understand. If you are foreign in The Bahamas and you think Bahamians hate you because you are why the hell are you (still) here?

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ohdrap4 2 years, 2 months ago

a2z your xenophobia is showing.

maybe you do not fear or hate foreigners, that is the message you just sent.

it is disdain, bahamians disdain anyone who is not a 'pure bahamian'.

yet the majority of persons nowadays are of west indian descent that call themselves bahamians.

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My2cents 2 years, 2 months ago

You are correct many Bahamians are of West Indian or some other descent. So are we are multi-heritage and xenophobic? Or do you simply have no logic to support your biased view?

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newcitizen 2 years, 2 months ago

Your first reaction is to question my origin but not the quality of my argument. You are proving my point.

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My2cents 2 years, 2 months ago

I don't agree that a2z proved your point...but you proved mine by contradicting yourself. Xenophobia allegations end all logical, practical and honest discussions because both you and I know that Bahamians are not xenophobic. Most important, these emotional and exaggerated statements promote discord. As a result we lose the opportunity to find common ground and a mutually beneficial solution. At the end of the day the "pure" but average Bahamian, expat, legal or illegal immigrant or foreign investor are all victims of inept and corrupt governance.

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a2z 2 years, 2 months ago

You have no quality of argument. And you have no point. If you had the presence of mind to understand basic definitions, you wouldn't find it necessary to make a giant leap over truth. You suggest that Bahamians hate themselves; well, they are foreign to this land. If they hate foreigners, your false argument concludes that they hate themselves. Are you too ignorant to see how ignorant you are?

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a2z 2 years, 2 months ago

And how the hell did you get here if Bahamians hate you so?

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ohdrap4 2 years, 2 months ago

maybe he was unfortunate enough to be born of a bahamian woman married to a foreign man.

the framers of the constitution are women phobic.

if sir lynden pindling were born on the 11th of july 1973 of the same parents, he would need to wait 18 years to become a citizen.

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TruePeople 2 years, 2 months ago

bey at the end a the day all of we is from somewhere else somehow, somewhere down the line. For a 'Christian country' its amazing how bahamas is carry on, i swear.

Jesus say he was gone prepare a place for us. bey if he was a bahamian what would he sey? only those born in heaven and those rich enough to buy a mansion (500,000$USD and up) in heaven can get in, erryone else gone to haiti when y'all dead

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knowathingsor2 2 years, 2 months ago

Nicole Burrows...man oh man - I fried you on facebook before...probably one of the most epic intellectual defeats I've seen in Bahamian internet dialogues. Im surprised you are going back to this.... Really? I mean just read what youv'e written. Critically examine the premise of your article. Send it to one of your college professors...ask for their honest feedback. oh boy....youre lucky I'm too busy to hang you out to dry in the comments section here. But since your into dissecting big words i've got one for you to ponder. MYOPIC! Myopia describes the intellectual space your writing occupies. You tell people what they want to hear, to make them feel validated in their tiny world view, To make them feel victimized and provide a comforting faux moral high ground. The sort of thing the readers of British tabloids enjoy. This doesn't seem so harmful until one actually gets a grip on the GLOBAL reality that impacts our lives in real ways, with real consequences that require real ANALYSIS and demand of us more more critical thinking than a 4th grade geography class. As an op ed writer you have a moral responsibility to do better.Period.

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a2z 2 years, 2 months ago

The vitriol laced in this thread is amazing. I've studied the Tribune242 site for a long time. This writing sounds familiar..voltaire, I believe it was. Yes, the gay guy who teaches in Eleuthera. Reminds me of him. I wish Nicole reads this and answers you back. 'Hang you out to dry'? If I were The Tribune, I'd find that a personal threat and delete you from this thread and all others. What a dick...who clearly thinks too highly of himself and the quick sand of hallucinated moral ground he stands on.

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Cas0072 2 years, 2 months ago

Actually Knowathingsor2, it is people like you who tell people what they want to hear. There are always two sides, three some say, to every story. When people slap the word xenophobia on immigration law enforcement activities and to disregard the right of citizens to feel and express their views on how it impacts them, you know it cuts any productive conversation short. Who wants to engage in discussions with anyone who insults them from the start? And just like the people who abuse the term xenophobia, you attack the columnist instead of intelligently discussing the social, economic, healthcare, and future impact of illegal immigration and why some viewpoints may be incorrect. You were not too busy to put together this empty tirade and I doubt that you are capable of handing anyone an “epic intellectual defeat.”

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My2cents 2 years, 2 months ago

Evidently Nicole is not smarting from what you believed to be an "epic" intellectual thrashing. However, it's ironic that you used the word myopic because "Myopia describes the intellectual space your writing occupies".

Those who simplify opposition to illegal immigration as "xenophobia" are extremely narrow minded. In reality there are logical reasons why a small, developing nation would not welcome scores of illegal immigrants and promote an anchor baby state. But of course, you couldn't see that and that's not what the "victims" want to hear. Also, FYI, global realities are here and illegal immigration is a common one for many countries...but I am not surprised that you can't see that.

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knowathingsor2 2 years, 2 months ago

Ouch a2z! Ok I give, there is perhaps an unwarranted acidity in my comment and an arrogrant tone. For that I apologise. sincerely. Though, i'd argue, your response exceeded the toxicity of mine and makes the undue assumption that I am male and a regular contributor to tribune242 comments. Also there is some irony in the fact that you suggest my comment was threatening but feel free to use profane slurs and call people "gay." No hard feelings getting dramatic on these threads is always fun.

I should give Nicole more credit but I let passion get the better of me. In all honesty on a second reading there are some good points in the article about making space for difficult conversations and not jumping the gun on the x - word. Political Correctness can indeed go to far. Also her acknowledgment that the hatred of foreigners comes from the fact that Bahamians are treated often as second class citizens in our own country rings very true. BUT there remains some serious assumptions and oversights.

The first being failure to acknowledge that human rights in the Bahamas are still fragile therefore ongoing discussion about human rights is needed. Many people on Nicole's side of the argument shut down people with a human rights perspective by calling them " Haitian Sympathizer" "unpatriotic," " not a real bahamian" having much the same effect she laments of people who call those on her side " xenophobic". The second erroneous assumption is that the rights of foreigners and the rights of nationals are separate and opposed to one or the other. You can have a society where fundamental protections serve the well being of all, rather than one group over another believe it or not. The third assumption I see as incorrect is the ideas that rights and privileges follow lines of nationality - I would argue they rather follow lines of class, political connection and money.

The reason people cry fascism when they see views like Nicole's is because historical analysis of some of humanities darkest events (apartheid, jim crowism, rwanda 1994, ethnic cleansing in former yugoslavia in the early 90s, Germany in the late 30s,) unveil uncannily similar language. The atrocities commited during these historical events were often carried out by ordinary people. What disturbs me is the slippery slope from the rhetoric found in Nicole's writing and in contemporary politics. But those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it.

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TheMadHatter 2 years, 1 month ago

Well then perhaps the migrants ought to consider whether they want to be here when "history repeats". You cannot come into someone's country and out-breed them - practicing a form of ethnic cleansing in the process, and not expect a retaliation. Someone above mentioned that we don't know what percentage of the Haitians here are legal or illegal. The legality is not important - the point is that they are Haitians and this is the Bahamas and their numbers should not be at 80% of the total population (but they are heading there).

Bahamians are a peaceful people - but they will reach a breaking point. Perhaps when the fight breaks out and the machetes start to fly we will even lose that fight, but I predict it will be a very horrible event on a national scale and the CNN helicopters will be overhead.

So all this talk of legality and human rights etc. should be considered against a race's right to simple survival. Humans have a natural inclination to survive, and have been shown to do incredible things to achieve it.

TheMadHatter

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knowathingsor2 2 years, 2 months ago

My2cents. I agree to simplify opposition to illegal immigration as "xenophobia" is narrow minded. But to ignore xenophobic rhetoric in anti immigration politics is narrow minded and risks allowing a distorted understanding of the role immigrants legal and illegal play in the economy and society that prevents us from addressing real legal issues of documentation and the necessary movement of people and ideas in the 21st century world. You are right that there are logical reasons why a small, developing nation would not welcome scores of illegal immigrants and promote an anchor baby state. However the reality is that this small developing nation has spent years depending on an economy with a hunger for cheap labourers whose babies cannot be faulted for desiring the opportunity to participate in the development of this country. What do you think? Is there any truth you can see in that argument?

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My2cents 2 years, 2 months ago

“Xenophobic rhetoric in anti-immigration politics”…really? There is nothing discriminatory or unique about the Bahamas’ immigration policies when compared to other 21st century immigration policies. Haitians simply feel targeted because they are the largest group of immigrants. However, no immigration law or policy singles out any specific group. It also does not distinguish between children of illegal or legal foreigners, with regard to applying for citizenship at 18. The failure of illegals to accept an iota of responsibility for their actions and the unfortunate situation it places their children, prevents discussion. In a perfect world, no child should be faulted for their parents’ action or denied an opportunity to succeed…but in reality everyone is impacted by the decisions and legacy of their parents.

The role that illegals play in an economy like the Bahamas, is that it takes jobs out of the market for Bahamians. An illegal who rooms with 5 others, and splits a $25-50 per week in illegal rent, little or no utilities, can always perform the job more cheaply. If we disagree on how illegals benefit an economy with 15% unemployment, overcrowded schools and taxed resources…where is the common ground?

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happyfly 1 year, 7 months ago

So who among you can honestly answer what you fear more or less. Five Haitians that perform menial chores and accept subhuman treatment by the wider populous. Or five well educated white people that are capable of competing for your well paying job.......and I give you the true meaning of Xenophobia and a country that is slowly regressing to the South instead of advancing to the North

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Liberal 1 year, 4 months ago

"The role that illegals play in an economy like the Bahamas, is that it takes jobs out of the market for Bahamians" This is beyond wrong! And yet it is a misconception shared by so many around the world! An economy is not a pint pot that only holds so much. The more people there are, the more jobs there are. It works even better if the extra people have the same rights as those already present, so that they can buy cars, have bank accounts, and so generate even more employment. That way they can contribute fully to society. And don't forget, now that we have VAT, illegal immigrants are paying taxes just like legal ones, so shouldn't they be entitled to the same benefits? If they can send their children to school that will make more jobs for teachers too ... and avoid the looming spectre of an uneducated underclass that can only turn to crime to survive!

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Socrates 1 year ago

We can all appreciate Ms. Burrows English lesson but in today's world, few words are used technically correctly and they develop everyday use and meaning. Writers are quite correct to refer to the prevailing attitude regarding non-Bahamians by resident Bahamians as being xenophobic. We get downgraded and some get pissed off because foreigners say so. You have an activist group who receive money from non-Bahamians and suddenly it's a plot to destabilize the government. You have a dispute with Izmiralian and because he dared to push back, he is villified. As per the dictionary we can debate this view, but as used in everyday language, I'm afraid Ms. Burrows that we are xenophobics...

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