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Fanon, Frantz  (1969) The Wretched of the Earth . Centre for Civil Society Chapter 3 The Pitfalls of National Consciousness: -.

HISTORY teaches us clearly that the battle against colonialism does not run
straight away along the lines of nationalism. For a very long time the
native devotes his energies to ending certain definite abuses: forced
labour, corporal punishment, inequality of salaries, limitation of political
rights, etc. This fight for democracy against the oppression of mankind will
slowly leave the confusion of neo-liberal universalism to emerge, sometimes
laboriously, as a claim to nationhood. It so happens that the unpreparedness
of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the
mass of the people, their laziness, and, let it be said, their cowardice at
the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps.

National consciousness, instead of being the all-embracing crystallization
of the innermost hopes of the whole people, instead of being the immediate
and most obvious result of the mobilization of the people, will be in any
case only an empty shell, a crude and fragile travesty of what it might have
been. The faults that we find in it are quite sufficient explanation of the
facility with which, when dealing with young and indepen-dent nations, the
nation is passed over for the race, and the tribe is preferred to the state.
These are the cracks in the edifice which show the process of retrogression
that is so harmful and prejudicial to national effort and national unity. We
shall see that such retrograde steps with all the weaknesses and serious
dangers that they entail are the historical result of the incapacity of the
national middle class to rationalize popular action, that is to say their
incapacity to see into the reasons for that action.

This traditional weakness, which is almost congenital to the national
consciousness of under-developed countries, is not solely the result of the
mutilation of the colonized people by the colonial regime. It is also the
result of the intellectual laziness of the national middle class, of its
spiritual penury, and of the pro-foundly cosmopolitan mould that its mind is
set in.

The national middle class which takes over power at the end of the colonial
regime is an under-developed middle class. It has practically no economic
power, and in any case it is in no way commensurate with the bourgeoisie of
the mother country which it hopes to replace. In its wilful narcissism, the
national middle class is easily convinced that it can advantageously replace
the middle class of the mother country. But that same independence which
literally drives it into a comer will give rise within its ranks to
catastrophic reactions, and will oblige it to send out frenzied appeals for
help to the former mother country. The university and merchant classes which
make up the most enlightened section of the new state are in fact
characterized by the smallness of their number and their being con-centrated
in the capital, and the type of activities in which they are engaged:
business, agriculture and the liberal professions. Neither financiers nor
industrial magnates are to be found within this national middle class. The
national bourgeoisie of under-developed countries is not engaged in
production, nor in invention, nor building, nor labour; it is completely
canalized into activities of the intermediary type. Its innermost vocation
seems to be to keep in the running and to be part of the racket. The
psychology of the national bourgeoisie is that of the busi-nessman, not that
of a captain of industry; and it is only too true that the greed of the
settlers and the system of embargoes set up by colonialism has hardly left
them any other choice.

Under the colonial system, a middle class which accumulates capital is an
impossible phenomenon. Now, precisely, it would seem that the historical
vocation of an authentic national middle class in an under-developed country
is to repudiate its own nature in so far as it is bourgeois, that is to say
in so far as it is the tool of capitalism, and to make itself the willing
slave of that revolutionary capital which is the people.

In an under-developed country an authentic national middle class ought to
consider as its bounden duty to betray the calling fate has marked out for
it, and to put itself to school with the people: in other words to put at
the people's disposal the intel-lectual and technical capital that it has
snatched when going through the colonial universities. But unhappily we
shall see that very often the national middle class does not follow this
heroic, positive, fruitful and just path; rather, it disappears with its
soul set at peace into the shocking ways - shocking because anti-national -
of a traditional bourgeoisie, of a bour-geoisie which is stupidly,
contemptibly, cynically bourgeois.

The objective of nationalist parties as from a certain given period is, we
have seen, strictly national. They mobilize the people with slogans of
independence, and for the rest leave it to future events. When such parties
are questioned on the eco-nomic programme of the state that they are
clamouring for, or on the nature of the regime which they propose to
install, they are incapable of replying, because, precisely, they are
completely ignorant of the economy of their own country.

This economy has always developed outside the limits of their knowledge.
They have nothing more than an approximate, bookish acquaintance with the
actual and potential resources of their country's soil and mineral deposits;
and therefore they can only speak of these resources on a general and
abstract plane. After independence this under-developed middle class,
reduced in numbers and without capital, which refuses to follow the path of
revolution, will fall into deplorable stagnation. It is unable to give free
rein to its genius, which formerly it was wont to lament, though rather too
glibly, was held in check by colonial domination. The precariousness of its
resources and the paucity of its managerial class forces it back for years
into an artisan economy. From its point of view, which is inevit-ably a very
limited one, a national economy is an economy based on what may be called
local products. Long speeches will be made about the artisan class. Since
the middle classes find it impossible to set up factories that would be more
profit-earning both for themselves and for the country as a whole, they will
surround the artisan class with a chauvinistic tenderness in keeping with
the new awareness of national dignity, and which moreover will bring them in
quite a lot of money. This cult of local products and this incapability to
seek out new systems of management will be equally manifested by the bogging
down of the national middle class in the methods of agricultural production
which were characteristic of the colonial period.

The national economy of the period of independence is not set on a new
footing. It is still concerned with the ground-nut harvest, with the cocoa
crop and the olive yield. In the same way there is no change in the
marketing of basic products, and not a single industry is set up in the
country. We go on sending out raw materials; we go on being Europe's small
farmers who specialize in unfinished products.

Yet the national middle class constantly demands the nationalization of the
economy and of the trading sectors. This is because, from their point of
view, nationalization does not mean placing the whole economy at the service
of the nation and deciding to satisfy the needs of the nation. For them,
nationalization does not mean governing the state with regard to the new
social relations whose growth it has been decided to encourage. To them,
nationalization quite simply means the transfer into native hands of those
unfair advantages which are a legacy of the colonial period.

Since the middle class has neither sufficient material nor intellectual
resources (by intellectual resources we mean engi-neers and technicians) it
limits its claims to the taking over of business offices and commercial
houses formerly occupied by the settlers. The national bourgeoisie steps
into the shoes of the former European settlement: doctors, barristers,
traders, commercial travellers, general agents and transport agents. It
considers that the dignity of the country and its own welfare require that
it should occupy all these posts. From now on it will insist that all the
big foreign companies should pass through its hands, whether these companies
wish to keep on their con-nexions with the country, or to open it up. The
national middle class discovers its historic mission: that of intermediary.

Seen through its eyes, its mission has nothing to do with transforming the
nation; it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission line between the
nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged, which today puts on the
masque of neo-colonialism. The national bourgeoisie will be quite content
with the role of the Western bourgeoisie's business agent, and it will play
its part without any complexes in a most dignified manner. But this same
lucrative role, this cheap-jack's function, this meanness of outlook and
this absence of all ambition sym-bolize the incapability of the national
middle class to fulfil its historic role of bourgeoisie. Here, the dynamic,
pioneer aspect, the characteristics of the inventor and of the discoverer of
new worlds which are found in all national bourgeoisies are lamentably
absent. In the colonial countries, the spirit of indulgence is dominant at
the core of the bourgeoisie; and this is because the national bourgeoisie
identifies itself with the Western bour-geoisie, from whom it has learnt its
lessons. It follows the West-em bourgeoisie along its path of negation and
decadence without ever having emulated it in its first stages of exploration
and invention, stages which are an acquisition of that Western bourgeoisie
whatever the circumstances. In its beginnings, the national bourgeoisie of
the colonial countries identifies itself with the decadence of the
bourgeoisie of the West. We need not think that it is jumping ahead; it is
in fact beginning at the end. It is already senile before it has come to
know the petu-lance, the fearlessness or the will to succeed of youth.

The national bourgeoisie will be greatly helped on its way towards decadence
by the Western bourgeoisies, who come to it as tourists avid for the exotic,
for big-game hunting and for casinos. The national bourgeoisie organizes
centres of rest and relaxation and pleasure resorts to meet the wishes of
the Western bourgeoisie. Such activity is given the name of tourism, and for
the occasion will be built up as a national industry. If proof is needed of
the eventual transformation of certain ele-ments of the ex-native
bourgeoisie into the organizers of parties for their Western opposite
numbers, it is worth while having a look at what has happened in Latin
America. The casinos of Havana and of Mexico, the beaches of Rio, the little
Brazilian and Mexican girls, the half-breed thirteen-year-olds, the ports of
Acapulco and Copacabana - all these are the stigma of this depravation of
the national middle class. Because it is bereft of ideas, because it lives
to itself and cuts itself off from the people, undermined by its hereditary
incapacity to think in terms of all the problems of the nation as seen from
the point of view of the whole of that nation, the national middle class
will have nothing better to do than to take on the role of manager for
Western enterprise, and it will in practice set up its country as the
brothel of Europe.

Once again we must keep before us the unfortunate example of certain Latin
American republics. The banking magnates, the technocrats and the big
businessmen of the United States have only to step on to a plane and they
are wafted into sub-tropical climes, there for a space of a week or ten days
to luxuriate in the delicious depravities which their 'reserves' hold for

The behaviour of the national landed proprietors is practi-cally identical
with that of the middle classes of the towns. The big farmers have, as soon
as independence was proclaimed, demanded the nationalization of agricultural
production. Through manifold scheming practices they manage to make a clean
sweep of the farms formerly owned by settlers, thus rein-forcing their hold
on the district. But they do not try to intro-duce new agricultural methods,
nor to farm more intensively, nor to integrate their farming systems into a
genuinely national economy.

In fact, the landed proprietors will insist that the state should give them
a hundred times more facilities and privileges than were enjoyed by the
foreign settlers in former times. The exploi-tation of agricultural workers
will be intensified and made legiti-mate. Using two or three slogans, these
new colonists will demand an enormous amount of work from the agricultural
labourers, in the name of the national effort of course. There will be no
modernization of agriculture, no planning for de-velopment, and no
initiative; for initiative throws these people mto a panic since it implies
a minimum of risk, and completely upsets the hesitant, prudent, landed
bourgeoisie, which gradually slips more and more into the lines laid down by
colonialism. In. the districts where this is the case, the only efforts made
to better things are due to the government; it orders them, encourages them
and finances them. The landed bourgeoisie re-fuses to take the slightest
risk, and remains opposed to any ven-ture and to any hazard. It has no
intention of building upon sand; it demands solid investments and quick
returns. The enor-mous profits which it pockets, enormous if we take into
account the national revenue, are never reinvested. The
money-in-the-stocking mentality is dominant in the psychology of these
landed proprietors. Sometimes, especially in the years immediately
fol-lowing independence, the bourgeoisie does not hesitate to invest in
foreign banks the profits that it makes out of its native soil.

On the other hand large sums are spent on display: on cars, country houses,
and on all those things which have been justly described by economists as
characterizing an under-developed bourgeoisie.

We have said that the native bourgeoisie which comes to power uses its class
aggressiveness to corner the positions for-merly kept for foreigners. On the
morrow of independence, in fact, it violently attacks colonial
personalities: barristers, traders, landed proprietors, doctors and higher
civil servants. It will fight to the bitter end against these people 'who
insult our dignity as a nation'. It waves aloft the notion of the
nationaliza-tion and Aricanization of the ruling classes. The fact is that
such action will become more and more tinged by racism, until the
bourgeoisie bluntly puts the problem to the government by saying 'We must
have these posts'. They will not stop their snarling until they have taken
over every one.

The working class of the towns, the masses of unemployed, the small artisans
and craftsmen for their part line up behind this nationalist attitude; but
in all justice let it be said, they only follow in the steps of their
bourgeoisie. If the national bourgeoisie goes into competition with the
Europeans, the arti-sans and craftsmen start a fight against non-national
Africans. In the Ivory Coast, the anti-Dahoman and anti-Voltaic troubles are
in fact racial riots. The Dahoman and Voltaic peoples, who control the
greater part of the petty trade, are, once inde-pendence is declared, the
object of hostile manifestations on the part of the people of the Ivory
Coast. From nationalism we have passed to ultra-nationalism, to chauvinism,
and finally to racism. These foreigners are called on to leave; their shops
are burned, their street stalls are wrecked, and in fact the government of
the Ivory Coast commands them to go, thus giving their nationals
satisfaction. In Senegal it is the anti-Sudanese demonstrations which called
forth these words from Mr Mamadou Dia:

"The truth is that the Senegalese people have only adopted the Mali mystique
through attachment to its leaders. Their adhesion to the Mali has no other
significance than that of a fresh act of faith in the political policy of
the latter. The Senegalese territory was no less real, in fact it was all
the more so in that the presence of the Sudanese in Dakar too obviously
manifested for it to be forgotten. It is this fact which explains that, far
from being regretted, the break-up of the Federation has been greeted with
relief by the mass of the people and nowhere was a hand raised to maintain
it." (Mamadou Dia: Nations africaines et sohdarite mondial, Presses
Uni-versitaires de France, p. 140.)

While certain sections of the Senegalese people jump at the chance which is
afforded them by their own leaders to get rid of the Sudanese, who hamper
them in commercial matters or in administrative posts, the Congolese, who
stood by hardly daring to believe in the mass exodus of the Belgians, decide
to bring pressure to bear on the Senegalese who have settled in Leopoldville
and Elizabethville and to get them to leave.

As we see it, the mechanism is identical in the two sets of circumstances.
If the Europeans get in the way of the intellec-tuals and business
bourgeoisie of the young nation, for the mass of the people in the towns
competition is represented principally by Africans of another nation. On the
Ivory Coast these com-petitors are the Dahomans; in Ghana they are the
Nigerians; in Senegal, they are the Sudanese.

When the bourgeoisie's demands for a ruling class made up exclusively of
Negroes or Arabs do not spring from an authentic movement of nationalization
but merely correspond to an anxiety to place in the bourgeoisie's hands the
power held hitherto by the foreigner, the masses on their level present the
same demands, confining, however, the notion of Negro or Arab within certain
territorial limits. Between resounding assertions of the unity of the
continent and this behaviour of the masses which has its inspiration in
their leaders, many different attitudes may be traced. We observe a
permanent see-saw between African unity, which fades quicker and quicker
into the mists of oblivion, and a heart-breaking return to chauvinism in its
most bitter and detestable form.

"On the Senegalese side, the leaders who have been the main theore-ticians
of African unity, and who several times over have sacrificed their local
political organizations and their personal positions to this idea, are,
though in all good faith, undeniably responsible. Their mistake - our
mistake - has been, under pretext of fighting 'Balkanization', not to have
taken into consideration the pre-colonial fact of territorialism. Our
mistake has been not to have paid enough attention in our analyses to this
phenomenon, which is the fruit of colonialism if you like, but also a
sociological fact which no theory of unity, be it ever so laudable or
attractive, can abolish. We have allowed ourselves to be seduced by a
mirage; that of the structure which is the most pleasing to our minds; and,
mistaking our ideal for reality, we have believed it enough to condemn
territorialism, and its natural sequel, micro-nationalism, for us to get the
better of them, and to assure the success of our chimerical undertaking".
(Mamadou Dia, op. cit.)

>From the chauvinism of the Senegalese to the tribalism of the Yolofs is not
a big step. For, in fact, everywhere that the national bourgeoisie has
failed to break through to the people as a whole, to enlighten them, and to
consider all problems in the first place with regard to them - a failure due
to the bourgeoisie's attitude of mistrust and to the haziness of its
political tenets - everywhere where that national bourgeoisie has shown
itself incapable of extending its vision of the world sufficiently, we
observe a falling back towards old tribal attitudes, and, furious and sick
at heart, we perceive that race feeling in its most exacerbated form is
triumphing. Since the sole motto of the bourgeoisie is 'Replace the
foreigner', and because it hastens in every walk of life to secure justice
for itself and to take over the posts that the foreigner has vacated, the
'small people' of the nation - taxi-drivers, cake-sellers and shoeblacks -
will be equally quick to insist that the Dahomans go home to their own
country, or will even go further and demand that the Foulbis and the Peuhls
return to their jungle or their mountains.

It is from this view-point that we must interpret the fact that in young,
independent countries, here and there federalism triumphs. We know that
colonial domination has marked cer-tain regions out for privilege. The
colony's economy is not integrated into that of the nation as a whole. It is
still organized in order to complete the economy of the different mother
countries. Colonialism hardly ever exploits the whole of a country. It
contents itself with bringing to light the natural re-sources, which it
extracts, and exports to meet the needs of the mother country's industries,
thereby allowing certain sectors of the colony to become relatively rich.
But the rest of the colony follows its path of under-development and
poverty, or at all events sinks into it more deeply.

Immediately after independence, the nationals who live in the more
prosperous regions realize their good luck, and show a primary and profound
reaction in refusing to feed the other nationals. The districts which are
rich in 'ground-nuts, in cocoa and in diamonds come to the forefront, and
dominate the empty panorama which the rest of the nation presents. The
nationals of these rich regions look upon the others with hatred, and find
in them envy and covetousness, and homicidal impulses. Old rivalries which
were there before colonialism, old inter-racial hatred come to the surface.
The Balubas refuse to feed the Luluas; Katanga forms itself into a state,
and Albert Kalondji gets himself crowned king of South Kasai.

African unity, that vague formula, yet one to which the men and women of
Africa were passionately attached, and whose operative value served to bring
immense pressure to bear on colonialism, African unity takes off the mask,
and crumbles into regionalism inside the hollow shell of nationality itself.
The national bourgeoisie, since it is strung up to defend its im-mediate
interests, and sees no farther than the end of its nose, reveals itself
incapable of simply bringing national unity into being, or of building up
the nation on a stable and productive basis. The national front which has
forced colonialism to withdraw cracks up, and wastes the victory it has

This merciless fight engaged upon by races and tribes, and this aggressive
anxiety to occupy the posts left vacant by the departure of the foreigner,
will equally give rise to religious rivalries. In the country districts and
the bush, minor con-fraternities, local religions and maraboutic cults will
show a new vitality and will once more take up their round of
excommunications. In the big towns, on the level of the administrative
classes, we will observe the coming to grips of the two great revealed
religions, Islam and Catholicism.

Colonialism, which had been shaken to its very foundations by the birth of
African unity, recovers its balance and tries now to break that will to
unity by using all the movement's weak-nesses. Colonialism will set the
African peoples moving by re-vealing to them the existence of 'spiritual'
rivalries. In Senegal, it is the newspaper New Africa which week by week
distils hatred of Islam and of the Arabs. The Lebanese, in whose hands is
the greater part of the small trading enterprises on the western seaboard,
are marked out for national obloquy. The missionaries find it opportune to
remind the masses that long before the advent of European colonialism the
great African empires were disrupted by the Arab invasion. There is no
hesitation in saying that it was the Arab occupation which paved the way for
European colonialism; Arab imperialism is commonly spoken of, and the
cultural. imperialism of Islam is condemned. Moslems are usually kept out of
the more important posts. In other regions the reverse is the case, and it
is the native Christians who are considered as conscious, objective enemies
of national independence.

Colonialism pulls every string shamelessly, and is only too content to set
at loggerheads those Africans who only yesterday were leagued against the
settlers. The idea of a Saint Bartho-lomew takes shape in certain minds, and
the advocates of colonialism laugh to themselves derisively when they hear
mag-nificent declarations about African unity. Inside a single nation,
religion splits up the people into different spiritual communities, all of
them kept up and stiffened by colonialism and its instru-ments. Totally
unexpected events break out here and there. In regions where Catholicism or
Protestantism predominates, we see the Moslem minorities flinging themselves
with unaccus-tomed ardour into their devotions. The Islamic feast days are
revived, and the Moslem religion defends itself inch by inch against the
violent absolutism of the Catholic faith. Ministers of state are heard to
say for the benefit of certain individuals that if they are not content they
have only to go to Cairo. Sometimes American Protestantism transplants its
anti-Catholic prejudices into African soil, and keeps up tribal rivalries
through religion.

Taking the continent as a whole, this religious tension may be responsible
for the revival of the commonest racial feeling. Africa is divided into
Black and White, and the names that are substituted - Africa south of the
Sahara, Africa north of the Sahara - do not manage to hide this latent
racism. Here, it is affirmed that White Africa has a thousand-year-old
tradition of culture; that she is Mediterranean, that she is a Continuation
of Europe and that she shares in Graeco-Latin civilization. Black Africa is
looked on as a region that is inert, brutal, uncivilized - in a word,
savage. There, all day long you may hear unpleasant remarks about veiled
women, poly-gamy and the supposed disdain the Arabs have for the feminine
sex. All such remarks are reminiscent in their aggressiveness of those that
are so often heard coming from the settler's lips. The national bourgeoisie
of each of these two great religions, which has totally assimilated
colonialist thought in its most corrupt form, takes over from the Europeans
and establishes in the continent a racial philosophy which is extremely
harmful for the future of Africa. By its laziness and will to imitation, it
promotes the ingrafting and stiffening of racism which was char-acteristic
of the colonial era. Thus it is by no means astonishing to hear in a country
that calls itself African remarks which are neither more nor less than
racist, and to observe the existence of paternalist behaviour which gives
you the bitter impression that you are in Paris, Brussels or London.

In certain regions of Africa, drivelling paternalism with regard to the
blacks and the loathsome idea derived from Western culture that the black
man is impervious to logic and the sciences reign in all their nakedness.
Sometimes it may be ascertained that the black minorities are hemmed in by a
kind of semi-slavery which renders legitimate that species of wariness, or
in other words mistrust, which the countries of Black Africa feel with
regard to the countries of White Africa. It is all too com-mon that a
citizen of Black Africa hears himself called a 'Negro' by the children when
walking in the streets of a big town in White Africa, or finds that civil
servants address him in pidgin English.

Yes, unfortunately it is not unknown that students from Black Africa who
attend secondary schools north of the Sahara hear their schoolfellows asking
if in their country there are houses, if they know what electricity is, or
if they practise cannibalism in their families. Yes, unfortunately it is not
un-known that in certain regions north of the Sahara Africans coming from
countries south of the Sahara meet nationals who implore them to take them
'anywhere at all on condition we meet Negroes'. In parallel fashion, in
certain young states of Black Africa members of parliament, or even
ministers, maintain without a trace of humour that the danger is not at all
of a reoccupation of their country by colonialism but of an eventual
invasion by 'those vandals of Arabs coming from the North'.

As we see it, the bankruptcy of the bourgeoisie is not apparent in the
economic field only. They have come to power in the name of a narrow
nationalism and representing a race; they will prove themselves incapable of
triumphantly putting into practice a programme with even a minimum humanist
content, in spite of fine-sounding declarations which are devoid of mean-ing
since the speakers bandy about in irresponsible fashion phrases that come
straight out of European treatises on morals and political philosophy. When
the bourgeoisie is strong, when it can arrange everything and everybody to
serve its power, it does not hesitate to affirm positively certain
democratic ideas which claim to be universally applicable. There must be
very exceptional circumstances if such a bourgeoisie, solidly based
economically, is forced into denying its own humanist ideology. The Western
bourgeoisie, though fundamentally racist, most often manages to mask this
racism by a multiplicity of nuances which allow it to preserve intact its
proclamation of mankind's outstanding dignity.

The Western bourgeoisie has prepared enough fences and railings to have no
real fear of the competition of those whom it exploits and holds in
contempt. Western bourgeois racial prejudice as regards the nigger and the
Arab is a racism of contempt; it is a racism which minimizes what it hates.
Bour-geois ideology, however, which is the proclamation of an essen-tial
equality between men, manages to appear logical in its own eyes by inviting
the sub-men to become human, and to take as their prototype Western humanity
as incarnated in the Western bourgeoisie.

The racial prejudice of the young national bourgeoisie is a racism of
defence, based on fear. Essentially it is no different from vulgar
tribalism, or the rivalries between septs or confra-ternities. We may
understand why keen-wined international observers have hardly taken
seriously the great flights of ora-tory about African unity, for it is true
that there are so many cracks in that unity visible to the naked eye that it
is only reasonable to insist that all these contradictions ought to be
resolved before the day of unity can come.

The people of Africa have only recently come to know themselves. They have
decided, in the name of the whole con-tinent, to weigh in strongly against
the colonial regime. Now the nationalist bourgeoisies, who in region after
region hasten to make their own fortunes and to set up a national system of
exploitation, do their utmost to put obstacles in the path of this 'Utopia'.
The national bourgeoisies, who are quite clear as to what their objectives
are, have decided to bar the way to that unity, to that coordinated effort
on the part of two hundred and fifty million men to triumph over stupidity,
hunger and inhumanity at one and the same time. This is why we must
understand that African unity can only be achieved through the upward thrust
of the people, and under the leadership of the people, that is to say, in
defiance of the interests of the bourgeoisie.

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