We Must Resist the Grey Men

In the summer of 2020, at the height of the Covid restrictions, when my head was still reeling from the acute shock of such unprecedented societal betrayal, I did what I always do — and what countless misfits and bookworms have done before me throughout all of civilized history — when the fickle world of humans fails (us): 

I took refuge in the sweet-smelling pages of books. One bookstore in the center of town remained open — the kind of bookstore such misfits love, cramped and overflowing to the brim with worn and dusty tomes on every subject imaginable — and they didn’t even complain that I wasn’t wearing a mask. 

I selected a book that I had never heard of before: Momo, by German writer Michael Ende. It drew my attention because the illustration on the cover of the Castilian edition reminded me of The Phantom Tollbooth. It depicted a strange-looking child in raggedy clothes marching into a whimsical city of clocks. I wanted to disappear into just such a world: a charming and soulful fantasy realm fit to counter the cruel, utilitarian logic of the “new normal” reality; a place where magic was still allowed to happen. 

I consider that I was a fairly well-read child. But I had never come across Momo in any library or bookstore. By contrast, most of the Mexicans I talked to had read the book, or at least knew its basic plot. 

Its author, Michael Ende, is the man who wrote The Neverending Story, which was adapted into a popular children’s movie in 1984. Though I have never seen this movie myself, several of my peers grew up on it; given its popularity, one might think that some of Ende’s other works would have found an American audience. 

But not one of the Americans I have asked has indicated familiarity with the story of Momo. Even my own partner — who is a fantasy novelist, and whose knowledge of fantasy literature is nearly encyclopedic — had never encountered this book. When we finally got our hands on an English copy, it was a used UK edition printed in 1984, and it took nearly three months to arrive. 

It is not difficult to see why this incredibly beautiful story — one of the most beautiful that I have ever read, in fact — might have been denied its proper place of honor in the American collective psyche. For its basic premise is a scathing and soulful attack on the cold logic that has been slowly devouring our institutions and communities.

Woven into the tapestry of a whimsical children’s novel is perhaps the best symbolic representation of the philosophy of scientific management that I have ever come across. Momo illuminates for us precisely how this philosophy works to hijack our sensibilities, scam us into thinking we are doing what is best for ourselves and our communities — all while, in reality, it erodes and eats away at our most priceless treasures. Let’s sketch it out in detail: 

Momo and Her Friends

“Long, long ago,” the book begins,

“…when people spoke languages quite different from our own, many fine, big cities already existed in the sunny lands of the world. There were towering palaces inhabited by kings and emperors; there were broad streets, narrow alleyways and winding lanes; there were sumptuous temples filled with idols of gold and marble; there were busy markets selling wares from all over the world; and there were handsome, spacious squares where people gathered to discuss the latest news and make speeches or listen to them. Last but not least, there were theatres — or, more properly, amphitheatres…Thousands of years have passed since then…A few of these ancient cities have survived to the present day, however. Life there has changed, of course. People ride around in cars and buses, have telephones and electric lights. But here and there among the modern buildings one can still find a column or two, an archway, a stretch of wall, or even an amphitheatre dating from olden times. 

It was in a city of this kind that the story of Momo took place.” 

Momo is a homeless child of unknown age, who lives in an unnamed, Italianate region. She appears one day on the outskirts of a city, “where the fields began and the houses became shabbier and more tumbledown,” and decides to make her home in the ruins of a small amphitheatre.

Before long, the local villagers discover her. They bombard her with questions: where does she come from? (“Momo gestured vaguely at some undefined spot in the far distance.”) Who gave her that strange name? (“‘I did,’ said Momo.”) How old is she, really? (“Momo hesitated. ‘A hundred,’ she said.”)  

Momo is a self-sufficient child who desires only to exist autonomously in peace. She has named herself, she has taken charge of her own relationship with the world around her and with life itself; and she has little need for all the structures we are taught to see as necessary for the development and management of human beings. The villagers, still operating on the assumption that all children should be properly integrated into these structures, suggest handing her into the care of their authorities: 

‘Listen,’ said the man, after conferring with the others, ‘would you mind if we told the police you’re here? Then you’d be put in a children’s home where they’d feed you and give you a proper bed and teach you reading and writing and lots of other things. How does that appeal to you?’

Momo gazed at him in horror. ‘No,’ she said in a low voice, ‘I’ve already been in one of those places. There were other children there, too, and bars over the windows. We were beaten every day for no good reason — it was awful. One night I climbed the wall and ran away. I wouldn’t want to go back there.’ 

‘I can understand that,’ said an old man, nodding, and the others could understand and nodded too.” 

At Momo’s insistence, the villagers — who have the kind of sense, creativity, and compassion that is rarely found outside of storybooks — allow her to make the amphitheatre her own abode. Though they offer to find her a home with one of them, she makes it very clear that — rather than live with anyone else — she would prefer to live on her own terms in the sanctuary she has chosen. 

The villagers, miraculously, respect this, and decide to band together to support and care for Momo. Instead of forcing their ideas of proper living onto the child, they listen to her needs and concerns and think creatively to find a way to help her while allowing her to self-determine her existence. Collectively, they come together and apply their talents to ensure that Momo has a decent quality of life, within her own domain: 

It occurred to them that she would be just as well off here as with one of them, so they decided to look after Momo together. It would be easier, in any case, for all of them to do so than for one of them alone.

They made an immediate start by spring-cleaning Momo’s dilapidated dungeon and refurbishing it as best they could. One of them, a bricklayer by trade, built her a miniature cooking stove and produced a rusty stovepipe to go with it. The old man, who was a carpenter, nailed together a little table and two chairs out of some packing cases. As for the womenfolk, they brought along a decrepit iron bedstead adorned with curlicues, a mattress with only a few rents in it, and a couple of blankets. The stone cell beneath the stage of the ruined amphiteatre became a snug little room. The bricklayer, who fancied himself as an artist, added the finishing touch by painting a pretty flower picture on the wall. He even painted a pretend frame around it and a pretend nail as well.” 

“Taking care of Momo” becomes a community project, and it brings the villagers together in a very special way. The locals soon find themselves making excuses to go spend time with her, and they share stories, food, and games and receive spiritual nourishment: 

You may think that Momo had simply been fortunate to come across such friendly people. This was precisely what Momo herself thought, but it soon dawned on her neighbours that they had been no less fortunate. She became so important to them that they wondered how they had ever managed without her in the past…The result was that Momo received a stream of visitors. She was almost always to be seen with someone sitting beside her, talking earnestly, and those who needed her but couldn’t come themselves would send for her instead. As for those who needed her but hadn’t yet realized it, the others used to tell them, ‘Why not go and see Momo?’”

But Momo is not your typical child storybook heroine. She is not incisively intelligent, unshakably upbeat and radiant, or morally dogged and determined; and she has no special talents or magical powers to speak of. She is not irresistibly charming or beautifully pure and innocent — on the contrary, she is generally described as sloppy and ragged — and she does not observe mystical phenomena that lifeless adults are incapable of seeing. Her magic is plain and simple: she is merely a better-than-average listener:

“Was Momo so incredibly bright that she always gave good advice, or found the right words to console people in need of consolation, or delivered fair and far-sighted opinions on their problems? 

No, she was no more capable of that than anyone else of her age. 

So could she do things that put people in a good mood? Could she sing like a bird or play an instrument? Given that she lived in a kind of circus, could she dance or do acrobatics? 

No, it wasn’t any of these either. 

Was she a witch, then? Did she know some magic spell that would drive away troubles and cares? Could she read a person’s palm or foretell the future in some other way?

No, what Momo was better at than anyone else was listening…She listened in a way that made slow-witted people have flashes of inspiration. It wasn’t that she actually said anything or asked questions that put such ideas into their heads. She simply sat there and listened with the utmost attention and sympathy, fixing them with her big, dark eyes, and they suddenly became aware of ideas whose existence they had never suspected.” 

Momo is a sort of symbolic Everyman character, who represents the primordial silence of an unstructured world. She embodies what Thomas Harrington refers to as “unmediated experience” — she is the incarnation of a universe unbranded by the constant presence of intervening framing mechanisms. She stimulates imagination in the minds and hearts of everyone around her, not through the overt generation of ideas, but by creating a negative and unmarked space where possibilities are allowed to breathe and take hold.

A vibrant community begins to grow around that space, anchored within the ruins of the old amphitheatre. Children come to play with Momo, dreaming up creative and fantastical story-adventures. Feuding friends resolve long-time disputes and reconcile with enormous bear hugs. And unlikely companionships form between members of the city who would normally have little to do with one other. Momo inhabits a rare and special world where, through open-mindedness and compassion, the best of human ingenuity and soulfulness shines through — and everybody’s lives grow better for it.

Until, that is, the Grey Men arrive.¹

Enter the Grey Men 

Life holds one great but quite commonplace mystery. Though shared by each of us and known to all, it seldom rates a second thought. That mystery, which most of us take for granted and never think twice about, is time. 

Calendars and clocks exist to measure time, but that signifies little because we all know that an hour can seem an eternity or pass in a flash, according to how we spend it. 

Time is life itself, and life resides in the human heart. 

The men in grey knew this better than anyone. Nobody knew the value of an hour or a minute, or even a single second, as well as they. They were experts on time just as leeches are experts on blood, and they acted accordingly.

They had designs on people’s time — long-term and well-laid plans of their own. What mattered most to them was that no one should become aware of their activities. They had surreptitiously installed themselves in the city. Now, step by step and day by day, they were secretly invading its inhabitants’ lives and taking them over. 

They knew the identity of every person likely to further their plans long before that person had any inkling of it. They waited for the ideal moment to entrap him, and they saw to it that the ideal moment came.

Chapter Six: The Timesaving Bank

The Grey Men function as sales representatives for the Timesaving Bank. They go from door to door, business to business, and school to school, encouraging the city’s residents to implement Taylorist principles of scientific management to optimize their every waking move. 

But they are not merely Taylorist corporate managers, striving to turn a profit from increased workplace efficiency. On a deeper level, they are a metaphor for the supranational cartels — organizations like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Bank for International Settlements — and associations of elites like the World Economic Forum (which was two years old in 1973, when Momo was first published). 

For the Grey Men are not truly human beings — they are parasites who require a steady influx of other people’s time in order to remain alive. Just like the parasitic mafia that orbits these global organizations — that talks about people using terms like “human capital,” that refers to human suffering and disease in terms of workdays or in terms of dollars lost, and that issues guides to national governments on how to “use” their human capital to enhance “productivity”² — the Grey Men see the great mass of humanity merely as a resource to be co-opted and redirected to their own ends.

Like the real-world players of The Game of Nations, they have realized something that the majority of people in the “Playmobil Society” remain oblivious to: when you are calculating and strategic, and have access to a great amount of resources, you become not merely a player on the broader social game board, but one of the game’s very designers. You can set the terms by which everyone else goes about their lives, and most people will never even notice that someone is consciously altering the terrain of existence.  

And when you start looking at other human beings this way — that is, as resources that rightfully, or very easily could, belong to you — then it’s all too facile to make the jump to thinking that anyone who escapes your parasitic net, or decides that they don’t want to play the game, is causing you a direct loss. Similarly, every inefficiency or unpredictability among the players is counted as a source of loss as well. It becomes necessary, then, to coerce people into playing, and to playing with precision and high energy. 

The Grey Men are much more sinister than mere soulless, Taylorist production managers. For they are a true cartel, who show up — like the agents of the World Bank and the IMF in a third-world country — to threaten anyone who snubs their little investment program, or who tries to draw away their customers.

To draw people into their game, they manipulate their marks with universal existential human fears: the fear of time; the fear of death; the fear of meaninglessness. They use a cold, calculating, yet narrow-minded, faux-scientific rationality to convince well-meaning individuals that they are doing something intelligent and benevolent, to divert their attention from the scam. 

Faux-Rational Illusions: The Seductive Trickery Behind Reductionistic Logic 

One of their first targets is a barber, Mr. Figaro, a man of modest means who has earned the respect of his local community. He enjoys his job and does it well, and looks upon his customers as friends — always taking time for casual conversation. But occasionally, when he finds himself alone, his little insecurities crop up; on this particular day, he gazes out the window doubtfully into the rain, questioning whether his chosen life path actually amounts to anything of value. 

Right on cue, sensing an opportunity, the men in grey appear:

At that moment a smart grey limousine pulled up right outside Mr Figaro’s barbershop. A grey-suited man got out and walked in. He deposited his grey briefcase on the ledge in front of the mirror, hung his grey bowler on the hat-rack, sat down in the barber’s chair, produced a grey notebook from his breast pocket and started leafing through it, puffing meanwhile at a small grey cigar. 

Mr Figaro shut the street door because he suddenly found it strangely chilly in his little shop. 

‘What’s it to be,’ he asked, ‘shave or haircut?’ Even as he spoke, he cursed himself for being so tactless: the stranger was as bald as an egg.

The man in grey didn’t smile. ‘Neither,’ he replied in a peculiarly flat and expressionless voice — a grey voice, so to speak. ‘I’m from the Timesaving Bank. Permit me to introduce myself: Agent No. X Y Q/384/b. We hear you wish to open an account with us.’” 

When Mr. Figaro expresses his confusion, Agent X Y Q/384/b continues: 

“‘It’s like this, my dear sir,’ said the man in grey. ‘You’re wasting your life cutting hair, lathering faces and swapping idle chitchat. When you’re dead, it’ll be as if you’d never existed. If you only had the time to lead the right kind of life, you’d be quite a different person. Time is all you need, right?’

‘That’s just what I was thinking a moment ago,’ mumbled Mr Figaro, and he shivered because it was getting colder and colder in spite of the door being shut. 

‘You see!’ said the man in grey, puffing contentedly at his small cigar. ‘You need more time, but how are you going to find it? By saving it, of course. You, Mr Figaro, are wasting time in a totally irresponsible way. Let me prove it to you by simple arithmetic…’ Agent No. X Y Q/384/b produced a piece of grey chalk and scrawled some figures on the mirror.

Right before his eyes, the barber, Mr. Figaro, sees all the hours of his entire remaining life reduced to mere numbers of seconds: 441,504,000 seconds devoted to sleep; 441,504,000 invested in work; 110,376,000 whiled away at meals; 55,188,000 spent with his elderly mother; 165,564,000 committed to friends and social events; 27,594,000 enjoyed with his lover, Miss Daria; and so on. 

“‘So that’s all my life amounts to,’ thought Mr Figaro, absolutely shattered. He was so impressed by the elaborate sum, which had come out perfectly, that he was ready to accept whatever advice the stranger had to offer. It was one of the tricks the men in grey used to dupe prospective customers.” 

When the Grey Men have done with Mr. Figaro, he has resolved to forgo chatting with his clients; he decides to put his mother in an inexpensive old folks’ home; and he writes Miss Daria a letter to inform her that he no longer can spare the time to see her. 

All his “saved time,” he is told, will automatically be confiscated and stored in the Timesaving Bank, care of its numbered agents, where — he is told — it will accumulate interest. But when the Grey Men leave, a curious thing occurs: he completely forgets their encounter. His resolutions — suggestions on the part of Agent X Y Q/384/b — have taken hold in his mind, and he believes them to be his very own ideas, which he pursues with fervor. 

But as Mr. Figaro, and, as time goes on, increasing numbers of converted city residents, work ever harder to conserve and stash away as much of their time as possible, they find themselves growing increasingly irritable and depressed. Far from improving the quality of their lives, they are destroying everything that once made them worth living in their single-minded focus on one quantitative measure of success. 

They have structured their entire lives around a goal that, on its own, is fairly reasonable — the goal of saving time — but they have blown the true importance of that goal way out of proportion, and have sacrificed, in the process, a holistic picture of life’s values and priorities. As a result their world becomes more and more homogenous, less and less vibrant, and everyone becomes tense and unhappy:

Whatever the occasion, whether solemn or joyous, time-savers could no longer celebrate it properly. Daydreaming they regarded almost as a criminal offence…It had ceased to matter that people should enjoy their work and take pride in it; on the contrary, enjoyment merely slowed them down…Old buildings were pulled down and replaced with modern ones devoid of all the things that were now thought superfluous. No architect troubled to design houses that suited the people who were to live in them, because that would have meant building a whole range of different houses. It was far cheaper and, above all, more timesaving to make them identical…[The streets] grew steadily longer, stretching away to the horizon in dead straight lines and turning the countryside into a disciplined desert. The lives of the people who inhabited this desert followed a similar pattern: they ran dead straight for as far as the eye could see. Everything in them was carefully planned and programmed, down to the last move and the last moment of time.

People never seemed to notice that, by saving time, they were losing something else.” 

From Individual Practicality to Social Duty: Weaponizing the Common Good

As society becomes more calculating and structured, “timesaving” comes to take on overtones of social duty; after all, if saving time is something that results in profit, then distracting or delaying others is detrimental to their well-being — and on a collective scale, the well-being of the community.

Moralizing notices are posted up in almost every room and building — “above business executives’ desks and in boardrooms, in doctors’ consulting rooms, shops, restaurants and department stores — even schools and kindergartens” — with slogans like:




People are constantly reminded that to save time is equivalent to being a good citizen, and there is no social context left untouched by this admonishment. 

Meanwhile, fewer and fewer of the local villagers show up to spend the day with Momo and her two remaining closest friends. Scapegoating and blame begins to be assigned to those dirty “time-thieves” who harm the rest of the collective by wasting precious time while others go without. Even several of the children who used to come play games with Momo now see her lifestyle as a problem: 

‘My parents think you’re a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings,’ Paolo explained. ‘They say you fritter your time away. They say there are too many of your sort around. You’ve got so much time on your hands, other people have to make do with less and less — that’s what they say — and if I keep coming here I’ll end up just like you…Our parents wouldn’t lie to us, would they?’ In a low voice, he added, ‘Aren’t you time-thieves, then?’” 

When you start attempting to optimize for a single-minded goal up to the micro-level of your world, inevitably, the boundaries between individual well-being and social duty will begin to blur. Since none of us exists in a vacuum, and we are all, to some extent, interdependent with each other, the actions of other people will always have some kind of effect on our resultant quantitative “score.” 

There can be no boundaries in such a points-based game, where the points are tied to one particular measured outcome; in such a game, as in any kind of team sport, players who don’t give their all are detriments to their collective. Everybody needs to be on board; there is no “live and let live.” 

Silencing the Outliers: Hedonistic Distraction, Emotional Gaslighting, and Direct Coercion of Opponents 

As Momo’s friends begin to gradually disappear, she starts to feel lonely and abandoned. She wonders what has happened to them all, and starts to visit them one by one to remind them of the vibrant world they have forsaken. 

The Grey Men cannot tolerate this. So they give her “Lola, the Living Doll” — a life-size, talking toy who comes, like Barbie, with a set of friends and an infinite array of new clothes and accoutrements that can be purchased. 

Lola, like the robot “friends” trotted out for lonely children and adults during the Covid lockdowns, is meant to replace Momo’s villager companions, distracting her from their absence; but she is not fooled. The doll is a pathetic substitute for real human community. It is not even a very good toy. She rejects the gift, insisting that she loves and misses her real friends.

Agent B L W/553/c, coldly and manipulatively, tries to make her feel guilty for upsetting their new game. He twists reality with his characteristic narrow-minded, faux-rationality, to try to make her feel she is the evil one. And in case emotional gaslighting doesn’t work, Agent B L W/553/c is not above overtly threatening a child

‘You tell me you love your friends. Let’s examine that statement quite objectively.’ 

He blew a few smoke rings. Momo tucked her bare feet under her skirt and burrowed still deeper into her oversize jacket. 

‘The first question to consider,’ pursued the man in grey, ‘is how much your friends really gain from the fact of your existence. Are you any practical use to them? No. Do you help them to get on in the world, make more money, make something of their lives? No again. Do you assist them in their efforts to save time? On the contrary, you distract them — you’re a millstone around their necks and an obstacle to their progress. You may not realize it, Momo, but you harm your friends simply by being here. Without meaning to be, you’re really their enemy. Is that what you call love?’ 

Momo didn’t know what to say. She’d never looked at things that way. She even wondered, for one brief moment, whether the man in grey might not be right after all.

‘And that,’ he went on, ‘is why we want to protect your friends from you. If you really love them, you’ll help us. We have their interests at heart, so we want them to succeed in life. We can’t just look on idly while you distract them from everything that matters. We want to make sure you leave them alone — that’s why we’re giving you all these lovely things.’

Momo’s lips had begun to tremble. ‘Who’s “we”?’ she asked. 

‘The Timesaving Bank,’ said the man in grey. ‘I’m Agent No. B L W/553/c. I wish you no harm, personally speaking, but the Timesaving Bank isn’t an organization to be trifled with.’” 

Opponents to the game are threats to its proper functioning on two levels: for one, they are one less mind and body dedicated to the cause of earning “points” for the faceless collective (or, that is, the parasites). On the other hand, they might distract the other players, or convince them to defect, and if this occurs en masse, the game itself is doomed. 

When dealing with those who cannot be convinced of the merits of the game, or who have already made up their minds they do not want to play, therefore, the gloves come off: they must be silenced, scapegoated, ostracized, emotionally manipulated, and when all else fails, threatened and coerced directly.

Resisting a Grey World 

I’m sure I don’t need to explain the obvious parallels between the Timesaving Bank and the Covidian “New Normal” regime — perhaps best illustrated in the act of putting on a mask to walk through a restaurant, only to remove it at one’s table for the duration of a meal. 

The narrow-minded, faux-rational idea that “every little thing” that we can do to “optimize” our lives matters — or, moreover, that there is even a way to realistically quantify such things — is a seductive line of reasoning, but an illusory one. 

And yet, it is creeping into our lives — just like the Grey Men crept into the lives of Momo and her friends — ever-increasingly, and becoming more and more ubiquitous. From toothpaste company Colgate’s admonishment that “Every drop [of water] counts” (“Just turn off the faucet while brushing!”) to the idea of “personal carbon allowances,” almost every aspect of our lives is being subject to attempts at micromanagement. After all, every little thing can eventually add up to make a difference, right? 

The trickery lies in the fact that this is not exactly wrong — although frequently, the specific methods employed to achieve these ends have little functional value. Yes, saved pennies do add up over time. 

The problem is, excessive micromanagement eliminates the kind of unstructured negative space so beautifully symbolized by Momo and her ruined amphitheatre. This negative space is absolutely essential for the emergence of vibrant communities, the functioning of the imagination, and the iteration and growth of life and culture itself. 

Without these things, we may very well achieve some quantitative and practical goals — but at the loss of many qualitative, undefinable things of beauty. These things are not, in fact, superfluous or “non-essential” — they may not be strictly necessary for our survival, but they are what makes life worth living in the first place. 

Whatever our social values and priorities may be — be they saving time, or saving lives; saving our wilderness spaces, or saving precious community resources like drinking water — there’s nothing wrong with implementing strategy and trying to be efficient. But we need to preserve our negative space as well, because it is where much of life’s true magic happens. 

For the sake of freedom, for the sake of vibrant and meaningful living, and for the sake of that very chaos and unpredictability that, in and of itself, provides the soil and the nutrients for beautiful variety to grow — we need to accept that there will always be holes and inefficiencies in our attempts to optimize our lives. And if someone pushes us to micromanage that precious negative space, that’s usually a sign that they are seeing us as resources, and that they do not, in fact, have our best interests at heart. 

The Grey Men will try to convince us otherwise, but their tactics are so obvious, that even a child could see them. We should resist them. 


1. In the British English edition, they are called the “men in grey.” In the Castilian edition, they are called the “Grey Men” (“Los hombres grises”). I typically will use the latter because it takes up less space, and in my opinion, it is more evocative.

2. From the World Economic Forum’s “Human Capital Report 2016:” “The Human Capital Index shows that all countries can do more to nurture and fully utilize their human capital potential. Across the Index, there are only 19 nations that have tapped 80% of their human capital potential or more. In addition to these 19 countries, 40 countries score between 70% and 80%. A further 38 countries score between 60% and 70%, while 28 countries score between 50% and 60%, and five countries remain 50%.

Is this what you want your life to amount to? Because other people are thinking about you as a resource to be “utilized.”

From the World Bank’s “Gulf Economic Update: The Health and Economic Burden of Non-Communicable Diseases in the GCC:” “NCDs [Non-Communicable Diseases] account for 75 percent of the disability burden in the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council], and result in a loss of nearly 6,400 DALYs [Disability-adjusted life years] per 100,000 population. This means that a staggering 6,400 years of full health are lost per 100,000 population because of NCDs alone. . .NCDs impose a growing direct cost to governments of the GCC countries. . .In addition to the direct costs of NCDs, economies are affected by their negative impact on human capital, resulting in substantial indirect costs. . .The direct impact comes from early death and retirement, from the negative impact of NCDs on academic achievement, and the more immediate loss of productivity.” 

Some people think your illness is a bad thing because it “costs” your society lost days and years of your labor.


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