Sigrid Undset Crosses Russia

Return to the Future 01

Seeing things plain, not lying to oneself, not subscribing to the delusions of others – these virtues, seemingly so simple, prove in life difficult to achieve and tricky to exercise.  An inevitable imitative pressure assimilates people to one another so that mere opinion, received but never vetted, comes to function as a surrogate reality, in the cave-like error of which people stumble about their errands in a lurching mockery of witting behavior.  The ancients worried about false or second-hand judgment (doxa) or about superstition.  Modern people must grapple with ideology.  The critique of ideology is the single most important exercise that an individual can undertake who wants to stand in truth and by his own lights against the conformist pressure of public opinion, or what dissenters nowadays call political correctness.  But this endeavor is complicated by the fact that contemporary ideology claims, of itself, to be a critique of ideology.  This verbal legerdemain began with Karl Marx, who identified the emergent industrial order as the ideology that he named Capitalism, to which his own Communism was supposed to be the clarifying antidote.  The ability to negotiate such a mental hall-of-mirrors is rarer than it should be.  Those who can do it – or have done it – deserve to be commemorated.

Undset

Norwegian author Sigrid Undset (1882 – 1949), born to a family of Danish freethinkers and raised in Norway in an atmosphere of urbane secularity, confronted the hollowness of that ethos in the aftermath of World War One when she shocked her familiars by embracing Roman Catholicism.  If the critical writings of the Dane Georg Brandes (1842 – 1927) summed up the turn-of-the-century “Cultural Leftist” attitude in Scandinavia, then Undset would have represented the most decisive repudiation imaginable of Brandesian liberalism – atheistic, socialistic, scornful of inherited custom, as it was, and eager to see realized its notion (its vague notion) of a bold new political order toppling every inherited custom and evaluation.  Undset championed tradition, remaining critical of any supposed liberation from norms.  Beginning with her vast Nobel Prize winning trilogy about medieval Norway, Kristin Lavransdatter, which she started writing in the teens of the century and completed in 1922, Undset undertook a literary, hence indirect but also thorough, critique of the pervasive liberalism-progressivism of European civilization.  Her social novels of the teens and twenties invariably place in the foreground thoughtless people who have given themselves to the emergent consumerism of middle class Western European society entre les deux guerres.

 Undset’s novels of the modern scene explore the unhappiness of the “Ibsen marriage,” as it is called, and she records in narrative the way in which new attitudes about casual liaison corrode and destroy marriage.  Undset’s representative leading character is an embittered someone in his or her late thirties or early forties, a person who holds a grudge against society because a putative promise of happiness has gone, as the subject sees it, unfulfilled – and a delinquency of fulfillment cannot, of course, be the character’s fault.  Images in a Mirror (1917) ranks as the best, and also the bleakest, of these tales, recounting the disappointments of a married woman, formerly an actress, who finds herself in a cul-de-sac of meaningless chattels and, as it seems to her, pointless parental responsibility.  Even her self-analysis carries the flavor of narcissism, which is her real and unacknowledged problem.  Undset’s recipients of grace, on the other hand, tend to be the down-and-out but independent minded people who succeed in finding happiness despite the actual impersonality of the consumerist order, and in entirely non-material ways.  It is impossible not to see the banal social atomism of modern Scandinavia (the prototype of similar social atomism later and elsewhere) forecast in Undset’s fiction.

On occasion, however, Undset addressed the issue of the modern crisis in ways autobiographical, journalistic, and forcibly, non-fictionally direct.  The most poignant and explicit of these instances of direct discourse is Undset’s memoir of her flight from Norway after the German invasion of April 1940 and her four-week trek via the Soviet Union and Japan on her way to political asylum in America.       Operation “Weser,” involving Germany’s air, sea, and land forces, caught Norway by surprise.  Sizeable German armies swiftly ensconced themselves in Southern Norway, especially in Narvik and Oslo, before the reserves of Norway’s tiny army could mobilize and before the British had time to implement their unilateral plan to trump Germany by occupying the country themselves.  In Return to the Future (1942), a kind of tour of the totalitarian nations in the early days of World War Two, Undset remarks what everyone knew as soon as the German troop carriers started angling up the fjords: “It was our misfortune and stupidity that somehow we could not believe that war… was true,” she writes; and while “Finland’s fight for life first awakened some of us to a more nearly realistic view,” yet many remained complacent, who “should have been awake.”

Escape from Norway

Why were people not “awake” to the obvious threats against the civilized order?  The answer lies in the implied social diagnosis of Undset’s novels.  Even the tentative consumerism of 1930s Norway had made citified, “cosmopolite” Norwegians self-absorbed and oblivious of evil, at least as Undset saw things.  Trouble happened elsewhere, in Poland, perhaps, or in Finland.  Trouble could not possibly afflict me, in the secure precincts of my world, which existed to respond to my needs.  The ego saw its challenge in career, status, sex, and the acquisition of material chattels.  Many people, quick to sense a trend, wanted to assimilate to the Brandesian model of the “Good European,” whose careless liberalism precluded any belief in actual evil.  In the 1920s it was the “Good European.”  Today it is the “Good Globalist” or the “Good Green Citizen.”  In Norway sixty-nine years ago, Nazi bullets shattered the narcissistic dream.

Undset’s first-born son Anders fell in action 27 April 1940 near the family home Bjerke-Baek.  Undset herself kept active organizing aide for refugees until late in May 1940 when – fearing arrest by the Gestapo – she crossed the border into Sweden.  If Norwegians had lived too blithely, the Swedes seemed to Undset to have succumbed to pessimistic delirium, expecting to be crushed between the USSR and the Third Reich, and meanwhile living in a spirit of one’s forcing his enjoyment tonight because tomorrow he expects to die.  The two contrasting national-psychic moods, complacency and fatalism, lack a doctrinal character and do not quite qualify as ideologies, but, as cognitive distortions, they serve for a preface to Return to the Future’s long central chapter, “Fourteen Days in Russia.”  For Undset the Nazis were one evil among several others and she had the foresight to recognize that one of the others might be, in the long term if not immediately, a greater threat to civilized order than the rampaging armies of the Hitler regime.

Well before actually visiting the Soviet Union, Undset understood that ideological allure exceeded ideological achievement by several magnitudes and that for the Cultural Leftists the USSR had long served for an eschatological symbol of the ideological future regardless of that nation’s actual condition.  Believers, who had seen nothing of the experiment, “could… predict that the development of capitalistic bourgeois society would inevitably end with all the wealth gathered in a few hands,” with all others become “propertyless proletarians,” whereupon “the whole middle class would crumble away little by little and become one with this proletariat.”  When Undset had the chance to gaze on the future during her trip by the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok, she saw, not the workers’ paradise of rumor, but rather poverty, neglect, and filth.  “I constantly got the feeling,” Undset writes about Moscow, “that the new Russia is built, not upon the ruins of our time, the ideas of our time, but on the world of our grandparents.”

In Moscow, Undset found herself overwhelmed by the pervasive aroma: “The fetid smell of cotton goods which had been washed again and again, but without soap… the smell of bedrooms closely packed with dirty beds,” and “the smell of urine and excrement from the dirty yards.”  All this disturbed Undset greatly, but the local people took it for granted, so much so that they had ceased to notice it.  In a bookshop, Undset looked for books in German or French, but the most that could be found was a badly produced pamphlet called Wer lebt glücklich im Sovjet-Russland? Undset records the disillusionment of her son.  Young Hans had, “like most Norwegians… been much occupied with the Communistic experiment and was ready to accept all of it which as a Catholic he could.”  Yet, “his indignation over the reality, as we saw it, was almost comic.”  Communist suppression and vilification of Orthodox religiosity particularly angered Hans; but so did officialdom’s appalling indifference to poverty and disease.  Undset observes that, “Russia apparently is trying to build the new on the foundation of ideas which the democracies have long ago discarded as unsuited to their purposes.”

On the Trans-Siberian, although Undset and Hans occupied a first-class compartment, they could get no hot water.  They had access to tepid, non-potable water only at intervals.  For ten days, the passengers got dirtier and dirtier and some fell sick.  “The totalitarian states,” as Undset writes, “do not care a damn about our ideas of the minimum of cleanliness,” which, for them, lies in the inevitable but indefinitely deferred future.  What obsessed the regime was, not exactly equality, but a fiercely mandatory likeness, always in thought, but also in pure squalor where some higher form of physical likeness could not otherwise be practically enforced.  Despite their attempts to maintain at least a shred of joy in their lives, the Russians that Undset met all knew what hung over their heads should they let down their guard and succumb to even the most trivial impulse to complain or dissent.  The shadow of oppression blighted all lives.  Thus, “one morning in the gray dawn we stood at a station a little east of Lake Baikal,” when “a train came in on the track beside ours, large ironclad cars, with tiny iron-barred windows” and “behind every window… a soldier with a poised bayonet.”  A day later came another such train: “The prisoners had been allowed to open the large sliding doors a little” and Undset could see “men, women, children… packed together in the cars.”  In Vladivostok, Conditions showed no improvement over those in Moscow or on the train.  The whole city struck Undset as being in the process of rusting away.  The only new things were the wall-sized portraits of Stalin and his henchmen painted on the sides of the decayed buildings.

Another of the totalitarian states, Japan seemed to Undset less squalid and terrifying than Russia (this was July 1940), perhaps because its revolution, the bushido government, was more recent and had not yet had time to squander the inheritance of the country’s recent, industrious past.  Still, as in Russia, beggars everywhere held out their bowls for alms, indicating acute economic dislocation; and although the bushido government was not yet systematically brutalizing its own people, everyone knew of its “totalitarian-state brutality” as directed against foreigners in its Chinese endeavor.  Shoppers, however, had begun to complain of a scarcity of goods.  “So in Japan also little by little we got the feeling that here too the living-conditions of the populace were subject to the same law which seems to operate in all totalitarian states: the standard of living sinks surely and steadily… the people are required to submit to more and more restrictions.”  Nothing being more spontaneously human than the market, the ideological regime, insistent on imposing its second reality, will always seek to shackle or annihilate the market: Hence the propensity of totalitarian states to kill off large groups of their own people by starvation.

In Return to the Future, Undset reminds her readers that in the constitutional nations, too, ideologies have begun their work of distorting the vision of reality by making vague but sugary appeals of a utopian variety and lodging infantile complaints against the necessary imperfection of earthly existence.  The market is wealth producing and equalizing, but the very equalization makes people more prone than ever to petty but corrosive resentments, despite their wellbeing or their affluence.  This situation has not changed in seventy years.  Undset addresses “Cultural Leftism” (which has its counterparts to this day in every western society – which is, indeed, at this moment triumphant) when she notes a pervasive conviction that, “social progress from ancient times to our days was determined by economic problems.”  This is what the narcissistic characters in her social novels think.  If only they had “more” of something – something material – they would be happy.  It is sadly what neoconservative “free marketers” in the Western nations of our own day, think.  A formula – a mantra – reduces the human to mere “economics.”  A short gap only separates that seemingly benign but reductive opinion from the “hate-consumed” Marxist position that identifies “future goals” with “dreams of revenge against everything that happened to awaken [its] enmity.”

As in Russia – so too in Japan: Before its defeat in 1945 and during its period of Axis cooperation, Japan would, like its enemy the Soviet Union and its ally Nazi Germany, impose a totalitarian police-state on its own people, socialize industry, and institute an absurd but imitatively wicked anti-Semitism.  Japan would intensify its brutality in China, Korea, and other victim-nations of its aggression.  Undset hopes that the cataclysm of the war will provoke her contemporaries to reevaluate the merits of that old dispensation according to which “people thought of themselves as souls, beings which never cease existing,” for whom “all conflict was at bottom a conflict between faith which led to salvation and faith which must lead to perdition.”  In contemporary terms, one might say that all conflict is at bottom a conflict between those who believe in life, robust and independent, and those who believe in death.  Every ideology is ultimately a form of nihilism whose adherents worship death – of the body, of the community, of the culture, and of the tradition.  Our world, the world of Anno Domine 2009, stands under indictment by the power of Undset’s pen.

 Return to the Future should be set against those remarkably fatuous travel books about Russia that sprouted like mushrooms in the 1930s (Lion Feuchtwanger’s Moscow: 1937 provides a good example) and the servile Western journalism, like Walter Duranty’s for The New York Times, that helped Stalin to cover up the atrocities that he and his Communist Party were then busy inflicting on the captive peoples of the USSR.  Back from the Future should be set against all complacency, anytime and anywhere, including the deadly complacency of the present moment.

19 thoughts on “Sigrid Undset Crosses Russia

  1. Pingback: Sigrid Undset Crosses Russia | Reaction Times

  2. Thank you a bunch, good Professor. I’m always in the market for good travelogues, especially about Central Asia (and Russia by extension).

    (I’ll probably be back with more thoughts after I get a chance to do more than skim the essay.)

  3. I don’t think there can be a non-ideological understanding, since the data make no sense until we interpret them with ideas. Since ideas are associated in systems, it seems that we all make sense of the world with an ideology, or doctrine, or worldview, or whatever else you care to call it. The test of an ideologies is its consequences, and this this goes far beyond its consequences for accumulating what you call “chattel.” You know Durkheim thought the suicide rate was an important test of a worldview. That seems sensible to me. An ideology that yields widespread despair cannot be good. I personally think art is highly diagnostic. When all the buildings, pictures and books are ugly, there must be something wrong with the ideology.

    You describe the insipidity of Norwegian middle-class life between the wars. It sounds like the joyless Epicurism that overtakes all bourgeois societies. The Nazi ideology was partly intended to replace the little pleasures of these last men with high destinies, but that didn’t work out so well. I’m sure you have read what Orwell wrote in his review of Mein Kampf. Hitler understood that a great many people want more from life than an “Ibsen marriage” and paying down the mortgage. Much as I despise the aims of our peaceful protesters, I sympathize with their hunger for heroism. Despite their often hideous appearance, they are looking for glory. That’s something the old Christianity offered ordinary people, and that all replacement ideologies took away. The old Christianity taught that every life is heroic, and potentially glorious. It’s replacements taught that every life is boredom punctuated by expensive diversions.

  4. Dear JM:

    Drawing on Voegelin, I identify ideology with a restriction of consciousness and a closedness with regard to the world and events. Indeed — to transcendence. When the professoriate infuses its limited reserve of ideas in the minds of inexperienced freshmen, the result for the freshmen is that they internalize an impoverished view of the world. This view does not stem from individual experience nor from growing up with the wisdom of elders (collective experience). It is simply rote instruction. In the Fall Semester last year, I had to tell a young SJW that I could be of no help to him until he rid his mind of slogans. He thought entirely within a limited range of (stupid) slogans. He was, as I use the word, an ideologue. His very personality had been blanked out by indoctrination.

    In the bourgeoisification of Western society, a similar narrowing has occurred, quite as you observe. Meaning dissolves as mere things (my “chattels”) replace it. This, too, is the type of narrowing that Voegelin invokes when he discusses ideology. There is, in fact, a remarkable parallelism between the bourgeois focus on things and the Marxist focus on what Marxists call “the dialectic of materialism.” One is the other side of the coin from the other. Both lead to spiritual impoverishment and a high suicide rate.

    I would never say that anyone has a purely unprejudiced view of reality, but the prejudiced view, as long as it has its roots in a genuine education and in the self-examination of one’s experiences, is not the same as an ideology. A prejudiced view is organic, an ideological view mechanistic or algorithmic.

    When I look at the videos of current violence — I see masked mobsters threatening old women and dousing them with paint, murderers stalking people whom they hate (the Portland street killing), and lynch-mobs demanding, Islam-style, that people shout slogans and kneel to their new masters. The perpetrators of these aggressions might experience what Homer designates as thumos, but I would hesitate to employ the word heroism in describing their probable inner experience. They have a sense of triumph, to be sure. The young women with clubs and a can of paint indeed triumphed over the old woman. Is that really the same as when two Homeric heroes do single combat? There is a peer-relationship in that case. SJWs don’t think of enemies as peers. It is possible, however, that I have misunderstood you.

    Sincerely — Tom

    • I said that I saw a hunger for heroism in the protesters, but agree that their actions were mostly low, cowardly, and in service of a false cause. It is extremely callow for an 18 year old to dedicate their life to “social justice” or “saving the planet,” but I sympathize with their yearning for high destinies. We on the right should think much more about this. Voegelin works so long as transcendence is experienced as a reality, since that gives us all the heroism and high destiny we could wish for, but Voeglin the secular right has secularized Voegelin and become an enemy to romance, enthusiasm and high ideals. Voegelin tells us that ideologies and utopias are screens that hide the demoralizing banality of secularized existence. The secular right says take away the screens and let existence be banal! So there is little wonder that no one gets enthused about the secular right. They don’t offer you a shot at glory. They offer you a shot at a backyard swimming pool.

      I agree with what you and Voegelin say about “thinking” entirely in terms of slogans, clichés, and shibboleths. This is memetic thinking, received opinion, or prejudice. We conservatives favor prejudice when prejudices are true because a prejudice is more stable than a rational conviction. Prejudice is, in other words, the most “conservative” form of belief. But the “conservative” nature of prejudice becomes a problem when those prejudices are false and destructive, since these prejudices will stand up to a great deal of disconfirmation and negative feedback. As you know, this is what Voegelin calls a “second reality,” which is to say a system of false slogans that is entrenched as a sturdy prejudice. I don’t object to calling this second reality an ideology, but do think that doing so can easily betray the right into a sterile Rationalism (see above).

      • I agree with what you write.

        An added comment: Marx himself explains the violently low behavior of the rioters. The apocalypse of revolution proceeds, Marx asserts, from the revolutionary’s Blutrausch (“Bloodrush”) when he stabs a reactionary. This Blutrausch has a magical potency: It accelerates and universalizes the revolution. I think it is the Blutrausch that we are seeing, not idealistic heroism, in the records of contemporary violence. Voegelin discusses the Blutrausch in (I think) Science Politics & Gnosticism.

      • You don’t need Marx to understand the bloodrush, either. You can see it perfectly well in the last lines of the Aeneid, which is apposite precisely because the revolutionaries understand themselves to be personal Aeneases founding a New Rome.

  5. Re Voegelin:

    As a thought experiment, imagine taking a cohort of promising infant males and raise them isolated from the world on the same intellectual diet that sufficed for Sir Thomas Browne and Montaigne. Roughly Newman’s Idea, but let’s say nothing post 1720 just to be safe.

    (One variable I haven’t considered is precise physical conditions — mortality salience must obviously have some bearing on one’s Weltanschauung.)

    Some of these Boys Not From Brazil at the conclusion of the experiment and exposure to the modern world would be capable of a broader and less constrained appreciation of the present state of humanity than the Orthosphere Brains Trust and all who sail in her. Discuss.

    We know in a very broad sense what is wrong with us. My point is is it possible to totally un-know certain things and modes of thought? And is this a problem or not?

  6. However much I like your condition of “nothing prior to 1720,” to raise someone “isolated from the world” would be to raise him in Plato’s cave. That is to say: Raise him with shadows instead of reality — or to raise him in an ideology. When God kicked Adam and Eve out of Paradise and into reality, he destined their progeny to live in reality. (Felix culpa!) Rasselas was raised “isolated from reality.” He didn’t become a mature human being until he left his valley and trucked with the full humanity. Candide is at a lower level than Rasselas, but he too had to learn to live in reality, to come to grips with things, not shadows. Voltaire’s novella is commonly misread. The characters find satisfaction, if not happiness, when they grow vegetables in their garden and take them to the market in Istanbul to sell. The market is real. That is why ideologues hate the market.

    I know so many things that are wrong with me, it would take an encyclopedia to list them, but I hate encyclopedias and won’t be writing one. Their principle is exclusion. Anything not conforming to the encyclopedic paradigm is excluded from the encyclopedia. That is why ideologues love encyclopedias.*

    As I wrote in response to JM Smith’s comment, it is possible that I have misunderstood you, Brain Trust or not.

    *See the Internet.

  7. I’m not criticizing Orthosphere Contributers, far from it. Any obscurity was due my mental laxity.

    My very imperfectly expressed point was that it’s impossible for us to stand outside the modern world and make a perfect critique of it because our own givens and thought processes are corrupted software. There’s no going back, only forward however imperfectly. Which I suppose is where Faith becomes obligatory because the thought of the Dialectic grinding away at bodies and souls for Eternity does not inspire much hope.

    A few minutes after I hit the post button on my comment, I realized that my final rhetorical question was utterly trite and sophomoric. We’re back to Genesis as always.

    I must admit that I’d always taken ‘Cultivate our Garden’ to mean acceptance of and retirement from the world (a tad Eeyore) rather than accepting engagement with the world in a spirit of acceptance and contentment (Pooh & Piglet). Thank you for this.

  8. By ‘Orthosphere Brains Trust’ I meant that the people writing here are at least *trying* to grok what has gone wrong with us and what we might do about it. Thence to my point that even people of good will, *let alone enemies or the disinterested or ignorant*, are creatures of their times… and so on.
    Sorry…should have been far less elliptical first time out!

    • @Kinch: Now I grok it.

      Here are a few free associations. One difference — I am guessing — between Orthosphereans (to call them that) and those on the Left (the whole gaggle of them across the whole spectrum of Leftyness) is that the former are generally aware of their limitations whereas the latter deny having any limitation. The faithful are also the doubtful; those whose motivation comes from their hatred of faith (and I mean specifically the Christian faith) are utterly convicted.

      Seekers after wisdom take it for granted that they are, in their peculiar way, creatures of their time. Convicted Lefties take it for granted that their time “has come.” The Right puts faith in Revelation; the Left has a primitive apocalyptic view of reality — also a Manichaean view of reality.

      Sojourners in reality, so to put it, try to grok what has gone wrong with them. And that is because, operating on faith, they know that faith is a supreme trial. Faith is philosophical. It is the Search for (not the possession of) Truth.

      On the other hand, I wish not to lay claim to a bunch of virtues. Generally, as I look back on my life, I see a stunning dearth of virtue. So maybe I should count myself out of the distinctions that I have made above.

      Thank you for commenting.

  9. The ego saw its challenge in career, status, sex, and the acquisition of material chattels. Many people, quick to sense a trend, wanted to assimilate to the Brandesian model of the “Good European,” whose careless liberalism precluded any belief in actual evil. In the 1920s it was the “Good European.”

    This is exactly the mindset that the younger generations have come to absolutely loathe in the Baby Boomers, but as should be obvious from this essay it was also prevalent in the Great and Silent generations as well. (Waugh’s Handful of Dust comes to mind.) This is not the place to do generational analysis, not least because generational analysis is part of the problem of atomization, but it seems worth pointing out – as it also seems worth pointing out that that loathing ultimately stems from likeness rather than unlikeness.

    Undset hopes that the cataclysm of the war will provoke her contemporaries to reevaluate the merits of that old dispensation according to which “people thought of themselves as souls, beings which never cease existing,” for whom “all conflict was at bottom a conflict between faith which led to salvation and faith which must lead to perdition.” In contemporary terms, one might say that all conflict is at bottom a conflict between those who believe in life, robust and independent, and those who believe in death.

    I strongly disagree with your rewording, though I suspect from your later reference to 2009 that this was done with a particular audience in mind that is not exactly this audience. Still, that rewording is itself in the favour of exactly the abstraction which allows a man to bury his hand in the bland consumer existence that leads so dully to Hell. The conflict, to be perceived at all, must be about faith. Faith is a specific, spiritual religious word; belief all too easily comes to mean opinion in the mind of the listener.

    The most striking thing about the Soviet experiment, and indeed the Nazi experiment and the still-ongoing democratic experiment is how easy they truly were and are to see through even for those with little experience of the actual facts of life under one of the regimes, and had been for at least a generation before The Great Patriotic War. I could rattle off lists and lists of names to prove my point, but I don’t need to in present company.

    (Still, if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend Paul Nazaroff’s Hunted Through Central Asia.)

    On a final sad note, Amazon wants over $800 for a hardback of Return to the Future.

    • I think the Undset piece originated in a lecture at the Russell Kirk Center — or maybe it was the H. L. Mencken Club.

      I’m unsure whether I follow your objection to my paraphrase of Undset. I take my notion of faith from Hebrews 11, where the prescription is paradoxically a slight and subtle one that demands the utmost to put into practice — the exact moral opposite of the Blutrausch.

      Wow! Eight hundred smackaroos! That’s a lot of clams. I wish I owned a hardbound copy.

      Thank you for commenting.

      • My objection can be pithily stated that I think you are right about the nature of faith, but that belief, contra faith, is all too easily confused with private opinion.

        This may be a purely personal reading of the word, but I think not. Thus the Evangelical conceit of ‘believing’ in Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour being sufficient, as a completed act, to earn entry into Heaven, while changing absolutely nothing about your life that an outside observer could detect.

        (Nota bene: I mean no essential reflection on Evangelical Christianity here. It is the tradition with which I grew up, and so I am familiar with its failure modes, is all.)

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