Singular Solutions and Complex Problems

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There is an old American Adage about placing a band-aid over a bullet hole. This stems not from any preconceived notions of America and its Wild West Heritage, but from the belief of so many, that “intentions” and “meanings” mean more than the actual results when it comes to helping people out. In essence, the placement of a simple band-aid over the bullet hole is the quintessential representation of the best of intentions allowing people to feel better about themselves while having to accomplish absolutely nothing.

 

There is another old adage about being able to save only one life … or one child or a selection of other recipients through pointless and meaningless assistance. If someone is setting out on a mission, willing to be satisfied with only helping a single individual, they are setting themselves up for failure before they ever begin, and creating limitations for themselves which they will likely never be able to overcome. Again, these are people seeking to feel better about themselves, whose intentions are good, who want to show the world how wonderful they are while never having to accomplish anything of value or meaning.

 

In one final look at “ancient” American proverbs, there is one that states: “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practical application. In practical application, there are numerous “real-world variables” that create an insurmountable chasm between theory and practical application”.

 

Such is the nature of the world and the reality we live in. Reality does not care a whit about intentions, emotions or meanings.

 

Intention and Reality

 

The person crossing the street intends only to cross the street. They may be highly elated about the prospect of reaching their favorite coffee shop on the other side of the street, or they could be depressed because their wife left them, took the kids with her and ran over the dog as she left in his brand new pickup truck. Reality does not care what emotional state anyone is in or their intentions. In all likelihood, their only intention is to get across the street to their favorite coffee shop. Maybe they never saw the bus, maybe they were told the bus was there but chose not to care for whatever reason, perhaps they saw the bus and maybe even a familiar driver and thought that surely the bus would stop for them as they crossed the street in front of it. Reality does not care what these people knew or thought they knew. No matter what their intentions may have been, no matter what they may have been thinking and no matter what their emotions were, at the end of the day the reality is that when the bus strikes them, they are dead. Everything else is completely inconsequential once reality rears its ugly head and takes its toll.

 

This is exceptionally relevant as the vast majority (if not all) of the current social assistance and social welfare programs only seek to address individual symptoms without ever addressing the underlying cause(s) or the actual elimination of the problems creating and extending the impoverished conditions of the program “beneficiaries”.

 

Some examples of this can be seen with Section 8 Housing in the United States and other similar programs in other industrialized nations. These housing complexes are often isolated and segregated on “that side of town” or on “the wrong side of the tracks”. The social stigmatization of even having an address in such an area can inhibit the ability of the individual to even be considered for viable employment opportunities. The housing is often provided at little to no cost for the individual and familial recipients, generally reducing the perceived value of the properties to a virtually non-existent nature. Over the course of generations, it achieves the status of an entitlement by the mere means of existence … people are owed that housing merely because they have been born and it becomes a birthright rather than anything earned. Thus, there is no real or perceived value, and subsequently, there is no need for any concern about that property. Once it becomes worn beyond any useful means, a new housing unit will be supplied again, without any real requirements on the part of the recipient.

 

This of course does not even begin to take into account the detrimental social impact on the children who are raised in such environments, or the numerous people who have become afflicted with debilitating diseases or taken up criminal efforts as a result of their impoverished lifestyle. Whoever decided that they could just slap all of the people who have become addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling, often as a direct result of multi-generational poverty, and slap them all together in the same place, was either exceptionally naive or did not really have their best interests at heart. (We know of course, given the great benevolence of our respective governments, that such “solutions” were never undertaken for the sake of political expediency, despite the claims of the late president Lyndon Baines Johnson to the contrary.

 

When it comes to poverty, the root cause is complex and systemic in nature. Unfortunately, much like doctors seeking to cure the symptoms rather than the disease, some well-meaning person will come along and offer a band-aid solution, placing a band-aid over the bullet hole and accomplishing nothing … or nothing good anyhow. The person receiving the band-aid receives a temporary measure of support at best. In short order, the band-aid will be rendered useless and the wound will fester and grow because only one issue, and only a symptom at that, was addressed and relieved, leaving the actual root causes or disease itself, to remain and grow, virtually unchallenged and unaffected. All of the singular solutions in the world will at best, only provide a temporary relief and at worst, will serve only to exacerbate the underlying problems and the overt symptoms.

 

Furthermore, poverty is exceptionally vicious insofar as it creates an environment which allows it to grow and impact others around the impoverished individual or family, even to the extent of adversely impacting children that have not even been born yet. Lacking any financial means, many impoverished families are unable to provide adequate food for their children, much less provide them with all of the requisite tools and the cost of an education. Thus, poverty ensures that it will continue on to the next generation … and the next and the next … ad infinitum. When livestock or other perishable goods are harvested, they must be sold quickly in order to avoid costly losses, often resulting in these goods being sold at greatly discounted rates, leaving the impoverished people still lacking sufficient amounts of foods and greatly reducing their potential to earn enough to improve their median quality of life. These and other symptoms of poverty have to be addressed and resolved, but at the same time, it is necessary to avoid the creation of a dependency class and also to address the root cause in addition to relieving the symptoms.

 

Thus, it is imperative to implement a comprehensive and systemic approach in order to effectively address and relieve the symptoms of poverty and to provide viable and long-term, meaningful solutions designed at getting rid of the root causes of poverty. All of this must also be accomplished without the creation of a dependency class as has resulted from many of the programs implemented under the auspices of “social assistance” or “welfare”. Poor life choices may not necessarily be punished, but they should not be rewarded either. Current levels of social assistance provide financial incentives for a mother to bear children out of wedlock, and more bonuses for more illegitimate children. When this same mother seeks to gain an education utilizing other government assistance programs, they are often forced to pay out of their own pockets for child care and other requisite services that will cost them quite literally more than they have the potential to earn.

 

The decisions of the individual to improve their median quality of life should not only be encouraged, but rewarded wherein it is possible to do so. Thus, the person actively seeking education and/or training should receive additional assistance to provide for the support and care of their children and/or other pressing concerns while they are undergoing their education. Furthermore, these programs should be implemented with a definitive “end-game” or point at which the recipient will be expected (and receive sociological assistance) to become more self-sufficient. If someone wishes to become a professional student, that should be their prerogative, but it should not be the responsibility of society as a whole to provide them with such an opportunity. Neither should it be the burden of society to provide for multiple generations of able-bodied persons who are, by all rights, fully capable of becoming productive and contributing members of society.

 

Socialist Solutions to Social Ills

 

West Virginia used to (and may still) have a Program wherein all of the able-bodied recipients of social welfare were required to work for the State Road Department if they wished to receive a welfare check. While there were a great many jokes about the “five-handled shovel” that would allow the entire crew to rest while only having to purchase one shovel, the fact of the matter was that this program was successful in many different ways. People had every incentive to look for meaningful and gainful employment. Granted, regular … and most notably good paying jobs were very scarce, this program requiring work to draw welfare assistance, gave the recipient an added incentive to actively seek out gainful employment. Furthermore, those that did have to resort to being welfare recipients could still walk with their head held high, knowing that, although their earnings may still have been meager, at least they had earned them, and even the psychological value of such programs should never be overlooked. A great many social ills could be successfully addressed and even wholly rectified with the implementation of similar programs in other areas of life as well.

 

Single mothers with numerous children … a fairly common occurrence in West Virginia, could easily be trained how to properly care for not only their own children, but the children of other recipients of social assistance. These additional parents would then be free to pursue vocational, scholastic or technical education and training without being burdened by added costs that would otherwise prevent such opportunities from being pursued. Able-bodied people could additionally be put to work building schools, libraries, even prisons, or putting together textbooks and other educational resources in bindaries and printing presses and factories and industrial shops. Educational opportunities could be made available to all of these people, preferably based on a unique selection of trades and/or enterprises based on highly specific aptitude batteries to determine where the individual had the best chances for being successful. Minimal standards would have to be met and maintained in order to continue receiving social assistance while pursuing their education. Upon the successful graduation from these courses, the people could then be put to work for the state for a set period of time in order to further assist other impoverished people and to pay off the debts that they had incurred acquiring their education.

 

Likewise, housing should not be isolated and separated on “that side of town” or on “the wrong side of the tracks”, but integrated into “normal” society, allowing for people to interact with people who are already well-adjusted to societal settings and reducing the potential for the social stigma currently associated with living in the bad part of town. This of course, would require yet more social assistance in the form of societal “etiquette” for lack of a better term, and courses in basic budget management, basic banking, food selection and preparation and other basic life skills that many “established” and “normal” people readily take for granted. It is again, naive at best … and most likely merely foolish to believe that a family that has been impoverished for multiple generations, can just be tossed into a new home, free of any responsibility, and to believe that somehow or another they will magically transform into well-adjusted, productive and contributing members of society.

 

Complex, Sustainable, Systemic Solutions

 

When the underlying cause of any problem is complex and systemic in nature, the required effective response will always be a complex and systemic solution. However, it should also be noted that such a system must be sustainable in nature … economically, environmentally and socially … in short, “Systemically Sustainable” or it is destined to fail before it is ever put into place. The American “War on Poverty” is more than fifty years old at the time of this writing, and global programs have been put in place through Non-Governmental Organizations and charitable movements, yet to date, roughly one-half of the population of the world … over three billion people live in abject poverty. (While the UN notes less than two billion people living in “true poverty”, the published numbers are only those who earn less than two US dollars per day) The sheer volume of people living in impoverished conditions, or otherwise considered to be among the underclass citizens of the world, should remove any and all doubt about the complete failure of the current systems that have been put in place. Add to these numbers, the massive number of people who have suffered further from addiction and other socially debilitating afflictions due to the complete lack of hope and other effects of poverty and it should be easy to see that a Systemic solution is ultimately the only possible solution with any real chance for success.

Comments

John Minehan Added Aug 4, 2018 - 7:32am
From the fourth chapter of the Mishnaic tractate of Sanhedrin: "Therefore, Adam [from whom all humanity descended] was created singly, to teach us that whoever destroys a single life in Israel is considered by Scripture to have destroyed the whole world and whoever saves a single life in Israel is considered by Scripture to have saved the whole world."
John Minehan Added Aug 4, 2018 - 7:45am
This is well written and clearly well-thought out.
 
I agree with what you are saying.
 
However, in practice, a lot of actual policy along this line is stunningly wrong headed,  for example, work requirements for Medicaid.  many Medicaid recipients are either the working poor or are people either in long term care or are totally disabled and dual eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare.
 
This is a classic example of fixing something that isn't broken to look like you are doing something. 
Dino Manalis Added Aug 4, 2018 - 8:43am
 Policies should be well thought out with their short-term and long-term effects.  Money and other resources are limited, we can only do so much.
John Minehan Added Aug 4, 2018 - 9:19am
Mr. Manalis, I can't disagree, "more bang for the buck" is always good.
Ward Tipton Added Aug 4, 2018 - 11:28am
So that begs the question if the greatest minds that our dear leaders had to come up with a solution were either woefully ignorant or created the current system intentionally. 
Ward Tipton Added Aug 4, 2018 - 11:28am
And why do they seem so immune to viable solutions? 
Katharine Otto Added Aug 4, 2018 - 2:42pm
Ward,
I don't believe in systemic changes until you have working prototypes on a small scale.  You say West Virginia had a prototype that might have worked, or at least parts of it worked, and that gets my attention.
 
I believe there's a misconception about the governmental social programs, which are believed to be for the good of the poor.  I would claim these government programs exist for the petty bureaucrats who have the power to wield government money and favors to people they like.  There is always more need for, say, housing, than available housing, so the bureaucrat gets to decide who gets the house.  
 
In exchange for that, the applicant must jump through a number of often arbitrary and humiliating hoops.  With dignity further compromised by having to go through this long, arduous, and demanding process, he is likely to feel entitled if or when he gets rewarded.
 
Where I live, every time the housing authority gets involved, we lose housing.  From the outside the public housing looks pretty decent, but there's no sign that the tenants care for their neighborhoods, or their yards.  There's no incentive to bond as a community, to have gardens or pick up litter.  I don't believe this is a result of poverty but more likely due to the government attitude that people are not willing or able to participate in their own well being.  As you mention, your West Virginia example proved that people do want to contribute in meaningful ways, but they are also likely to live down to low expectations if this is all they know.
Doug Plumb Added Aug 4, 2018 - 2:53pm
I'm not sure that helping one person instead of many people that are out of sight / mind is a great idea Ward. In fact CS Lewis doesn't like it either in the Screwtape Letters. (How do you like those ? - I'm going to post on them)
As a young person I had a terrible time in the workforce due to a mild dyslexia, I didn't know it. I thought I was a retard, and so did everyone else. People had no idea the concentration required all day long to figure out which way a part goes on, over and over again without ever being able to remember. I thought everyone went through that and I was just dumber than everyone else. You get very tired doing this and this leads to other mistakes.
This gave me a resume of past employment which consisted of terminations, not due to unwillingness to work, bad attitude or tardiness. "Unsuitable for this kind of work" is what I heard over and over again. But that early life experience ruined both my attitude and my ability to find employment. I was never on the welfare lines, but I couldn't really earn more than minimum wage until I went back to school as an adult.
A little bit of psychological testing could save millions of kids the pain of having to spend a lifetime learning that they have a very mild and almost unnoticeable disability and to avoid that kind of work that requires good skill in that area - ie spacial orientation, and to find out what best suits their abilities, and where their strengths lie.
I could have been ruined by this, a lifetime of section 8 living. I was one of the lucky ones.
Doug Plumb Added Aug 4, 2018 - 2:56pm
re "From the fourth chapter of the Mishnaic tractate of Sanhedrin: "Therefore, Adam [from whom all humanity descended] was created singly, to teach us that whoever destroys a single life in Israel is considered by Scripture to have destroyed the whole world and whoever saves a single life in Israel is considered by Scripture to have saved the whole world."  
 
This only applies to Jewish people, it does not apply to saving a (non human) non Jewish person.
Jeff Jackson Added Aug 4, 2018 - 7:17pm
"Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value." Thomas Paine

The "obtain too cheap" applies to things given to those who are poor. I'm not saying pay market prices, but, if they are able, have them work or make some sacrifice to get it. Like the spoiled child who breaks toys because they didn't have to work for them. I have a friend who works with welfare mothers, and they offer them job training and three years to get their act together. Take a wild guess what happens to them when they are about done with the three years? They get pregnant again. Nice post Ward.
FacePalm Added Aug 5, 2018 - 7:12am
Now, the way i'd always heard that aphorism near the beginning of your piece was as follows:
"In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice; in practice, there is."
Might've been one of those Yogi Berra-isms like "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded."
 
In truth, i've not read your article in it's entirety, yet, but it seems to revolve around some basic principles of human motivation and success, as well as the impediments to the same and potential solutions.
 
i'll see if i can't give it the more detailed attention it deserves a bit later.
 
Doug Plumb Added Aug 5, 2018 - 8:09am
Kant writes on the subject of the difference between theory and practice. The difference is just accounted for by what is not known by the practitioner or theorist.
Ward Tipton Added Aug 5, 2018 - 8:34am
Katharine Otto- I have spent over twenty years designing a complex and systemic approach to eradicate poverty, working with an amazing group of people. I would relish your feedback if you are interested in seeing the basics ... though it is extremely verbose, detailed and in some cases, very dry reading. 
 
Doug - I noted that if you have set out with the mindset that it is "worth it" even if you can save only one person ... you have already failed. I agree that psychology and even psychiatry do have limited practical applications. In the case of dyslexia this should be diagnosed by regular doctors no? In addition to the shrinks and licensed dope dealers no? (With all due respect to Katharine and all others who have studied such fields) I have a very personal occasion when a psychiatrist did indeed help me bring someone very near and dear to me back to her normal self after an attack brought about by circumstances I cannot discuss in public. I do agree that these fields can and should be utilized, but I am abhorred by for example ... a cousin of mine who, like me, has issues focusing on single aspects, but rather who sees the entire system ... we can both jump seventeen tangents over while still staying on the same page ... the same holds true with our mothers ... sisters. However, in his case, the schools decided that his ability to look at a math problem and see the solution ... actually the fact that he had issues focusing on singular issues but functioned quite well when multi-tasking ... their response was to drug him. Far too many of the psychotropic drugs are passed out to the point of abuse. Are these kids who are going off doing so because they are insane or because they have been so doped up with dangerous drugs with extremely hazardous side effects? 
 
Jeff Jackson- I do not believe anyone should receive handouts without at least some requirements for earning them. However, given the length of time that the impoverished in the US and other nations have been allowed to reside in their "comfortable ruts" with absolutely no societal demands and very little accountability required of them, it will be difficult to wean them off of their existence as a dependency class. 
 
Facepalm- There are probably a hundred different versions of that (and many other sayings) with virtually all of them attributed to numerous authors over this vast internet we have at our disposal. In actuality, the article is merely an introduction to a solution, not the actual solution. Please note my response to Katharine above. 
 
Doug - Better the demon you know than the devil you do not? The devil is in the details and it is always the details that are not known that get you! In that particular case I fear, Kant was merely stating the obvious ... though yes, I do have a complete library of his works ... but not accessible at this time. I believe along the same lines as Katharine here, save I do believe it was a concerted effort, not only to support crony capitalism and political party favors ... pun intended ... but also to create a dependency class solely dependent upon government as big brother, mother, father and god. 
 
PS Doug. you are going to love the article I will be posting as soon as my 48 hour "cooling off" period wears off ... though I believe a great many people here will think it quite insane. You are probably one of the very few who has or will research the references even in part. 
FacePalm Added Aug 5, 2018 - 9:04am
Ward-
Thanks for acknowledging my presence here; i was invited earlier this AM and posted for the first time a few hours ago. 
Is there a way to edit any of these posts once submitted?  Is there a way to directly respond to a specific poster, or do all posts have to start at the bottom, like i've experienced so far?
Doug Plumb Added Aug 5, 2018 - 9:14am
Re " I noted that if you have set out with the mindset that it is "worth it" even if you can save only one person ... you have already failed. "
 
CS Lewis, who I am reading this weekend, and being very very impressed as I read (he was another genius, like Kant), says that charity begins at home. These distant charities usually turn out to be scams and most money goes to the pizza eaters. I lost $200.00 on the  Tsunami a few years back.
Charity, when given in person to one person can really make a difference. Charity received from a stanger isn't the same.
Doug Plumb Added Aug 5, 2018 - 9:16am
re "In that particular case I fear, Kant was merely stating the obvious ... though yes, I do have a complete library of his works ... but not accessible at this time. "
 
He solved the riddle between rationalism and empiricism, gave us epistemology, faith and a basis from which to write laws. He predicted Hamiltonian mechanics and physics can be used to show that the world doesn't exist as we see it, see my movie Dialectic.
  I'll watch for your next work Lindsay.
Doug Plumb Added Aug 5, 2018 - 9:17am
By faith - I mean faith based on rationalism.
Ward Tipton Added Aug 5, 2018 - 9:45am
Facepalm-
Thanks for acknowledging my presence here;
Ummmmm ... common courtesy? 
 
i was invited earlier this AM and posted for the first time a few hours ago. 
Cool. I hope you stick around ... you will find a vast spectrum of opinions, ideas and voices here ... it ain't preachin' to the choir but it is a lot more rewarding in most cases ... though there are always idiots on all sides as well. I will look for the article. 

Is there a way to edit any of these posts once submitted? 
Your post is easily edited from your profile. You should see tabs regarding comments, posts, etc. As for comments, about all you can do is delete them and then start over. Unfortunately, for some reason, you cannot delete your post and the publish button gives you no warning or heads up about whether it is published or not. Just click publish one time and then check your profile to see if the article shows up. If it is posted numerous times, just change it to draft in all but one instance. 
 
Is there a way to directly respond to a specific poster, or do all posts have to start at the bottom, like i've experienced so far?
Pretty much just add their name in front of your comment for them as I have here I think. I do believe Autumn is working on a new site, but I am not sure how far along it is as I have very limited internet access and bandwidth ... and spend far too much of it here :/ Personally I think I would have just built a Joomla Site with Community Builder added in and let everyone have a blog, but this is not my site ... and I love it too much to leave over the details. 
 
Autumn Cote Added Aug 5, 2018 - 10:44am
Please note, it's against the rules to post more than one article to the site within a 48-hour period.  As always, many thanks for your participation with Writer Beat!
Ward Tipton Added Aug 5, 2018 - 11:05am
According to my time of post it was about twenty minutes shy, but I will try to coordinate times more carefully. 
Autumn Cote Added Aug 5, 2018 - 11:11am
This article was posted on August 3rd at 10:15pm.  That means your other article was more than 12 hours too soon.
Ward Tipton Added Aug 5, 2018 - 11:17am
I live in the Philippines, was looking at local time. I posted at 21:47 hours I think? But again, I will try to remember the time differences. 
Autumn Cote Added Aug 5, 2018 - 11:36am
No worries.  If you’re ever confused, just write a comment.
Katharine Otto Added Aug 5, 2018 - 3:11pm
Ward,
With all due respect, I would prefer to see an example of a plan that is actually working in the field.  That's what I liked about the West Virginia model you mentioned.  
 
There's a big gap between design and product, as anyone who has ever designed and built anything may know.    I have designed and made many things, from sweaters to furniture, and can tell you the finished product never matched the original design.  All required a significant amount of improvisation along the way.  Above discussion about theory and practice duly noted.
Ward Tipton Added Aug 5, 2018 - 9:52pm
Katharine - 
 
I could use some help building the smaller models. Wanna take a ride? 
 
(And yeah, while I hope I injected a modicum of humor, I am very serious) I have a very diverse group of people most of whom have at least one who is diametrically opposed in vision. I would truly be honored if you would look at the plans. The plans themselves have been accepted by governments in Costa Rica, Panama, French Polynesia (Indigenous tribes and tribal leaders thereof) Nigeria, Cameroon, Guinea (Conkry), Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines (Indigenous tribes) ... we just have to build your model and many of those governments will fund initial and extended projects. 
Ward Tipton Added Aug 5, 2018 - 9:54pm
I have spent the last twenty years tearing the concept apart to make sure there were no holes. I am always open to having EVERYTHING challenged as it forces an objective viewpoint. But yeah, it is time to begin building too. I have some nice locations set up in the Philippines and an incredible team of people ready to go back to work ... me not least among them as I have expended all of my resources selling the concept. 
Katharine Otto Added Aug 9, 2018 - 12:31pm
Ward,
This may surprise and shock you, but I am going in the opposite direction, as far as poverty is concerned.  I live a minimalist life, with income barely sufficient to pay taxes and buy food.  It's partly a political statement, as I don't believe in working to support a consumerist, consumptive society.  
 
The goal to eliminate poverty sounds like a World Bank mind-feed that wants everyone churning the money-wheel to support all their wars, airports, dams, and other land-rape agendas.  I contend land-based economies, if such economies are allowed to exist, don't need so much money if they are living off the land.  Money is a ruse to get people on the tax rolls.  
 
If the purpose were to eliminate world hunger, that might be different. Food is more practical than money.
 
Ward Tipton Added Aug 9, 2018 - 10:52pm
Hunger is certainly a major portion of the plan. Have you ever heard of food forests or Permaculture and/or RUrban designs? The implementation of these programs on a large scale would be quite easily accomplished, though in locations such as the USA, they are prohibited by excessive regulations ... cannot have the people going out and picking what they want to eat free of charge with no taxation and no government approved chemicals to "save" them right? 
 
It was not a request for financial contributions, but rather a request to dig in to your mind if you will. To engage in social discourse based on what is available for the project design and hopeful implementation. I have already gained approval to establish the mid-level projects in Guinea (Conkry), Equatorial Guinea, Panama, Costa Rica, Philippines, Cameroon, Nigeria and with numerous Indigenous tribes including in French Polynesia and the Philippines. The only contributions I would ever ask for would be for you to tear everything apart so that we can ensure there are no flaws (real-world variables not withstanding) before the programs are implemented. 
 
As for minimalist lifestyles, I have not legally existed for six years and found myself quite "dead" while working in the third world. I live in a native hut, use a tosspot and take my laptop into town or to friends to get it charged. (And Autumn wonders why I do not contribute more? LOL) Without the "benefit" of a legal fiction, even food is a challenge, limited mostly to what we can grow on out exceptionally small lot. Thus, again, I am not asking for financial contributions, but merely requesting a meeting of the minds if that is possible. 
Ward Tipton Added Aug 9, 2018 - 10:52pm
"our" not "out"

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