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“Clustering”: The new tool for electoral success?

The most concerning conundrum post election is the question of why working/vulnerable people voted against their own interests to help return a right-wing government that then goes on to bust them economically and socially … and not just in this country, but with Brexit and Trumpism too, there were strange forces at play to shift opinion away from sane rationality to vociferous anger.

Why is it so?

I believe I can see an answer in the word; “Clustering” … ie; getting hold of groups of vulnerable voters and using certain cultural fears to unite/corral them against what could be seen as a long-time enemy … and then letting the natural suspicions and gossiping innuendo do the hard work of: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and so bring another group of indecisive voters into the tent.

I would describe “clustering” as that action of where one central identifiable position of authority or person of power, through self-interest, raises opposition to a principle or ideal and because of their/its credible standing in a group or the community, can gather others around itself and using those people then up the ante in opposition to a principle or ideal and create a “cluster” of persons of credibility that acts like a magnet, drawing those undecided to what is seen as the most attractive position of strength. It is the attraction of strength that pulls in the undecided voters to throw their lot in with those they see as best supporting their personal interests as against the wider communities interests … Using this methodology, smaller, more localised groups can be targeted with a Cambridge Analytica-style concentration on most vulnerable seats or even ballot-box areas…with military precision to divide the electorate into smaller, easily managed groups.

Most of us of a certain experience in life have witnessed or even suffered such a phenomenon involving team sports, committees, work meetings etc … it is not nice and worse of all, after time and experience, one can see quite clearly when such a thing is evolving right in front of one’s eyes … Anyone watching ABC Insiders last Sunday (14/02) could see the journos’ there join in a “pile-on” against Daniel Andrews and his decision to lockdown Victoria … and then there was the discussion about low-income, casualised workers (Uber/Food delivery riders etc) getting decent conditions, with the “Newscorp genuflector” at one point giving clue to the future direction of his treasonous group in saying that (words to that effect) “these pizza delivery people are mostly migrants and overseas students whom many people would see as lesser workers” … implying a sense of racist interpretation in the general community … and sadly, going by recent events … he just may be correct … and there we see the possibility of the LNP playing a “cluster card” of one vulnerable working group – Australian local casualised workforce against an imported “457” cheap-labour section of the community … just as Howard played the “lower caste” refugees with his “children overboard” racism against the settled, secured Australian community … never mind that so many of that settled community were multi cultural already … it was the “do we want such disreputable people infecting our lovely country?” debate that won the day.

The last Federal election was also played on such grounds … the franking credits issue touched also the heart-strings of other self funded retirees … so many of whom were working people who benefitted from long term permanent employment, cheaper house prices when they bought and a solid superannuation scheme to allow them to invest or speculate on shares or property to harvest extra income to boost their retirement … indeed, some were heavily reliant on such investments as their aged pension could have been severely cut because of their superannuation amount and income from investment .. this created a cluster of self-interest among retirees that was inflamed by Tim Wilson’s geriatric Big-top circus up and down the East Coast.

Then there was The Greens’ “Adani Convoy”, where either through deliberate incitement or gormless political blundering, Bob Brown’s mob created another “cluster” of mining community members completely dropping Labor off their vote slips to insert the f#cking harridan Hanson on! … in a deluded opinion that they were protecting their long-term interests … again … clustering toward what was seen as a position of strength.

Add to the above a continual division on climate change, carbon sequestration and environmental challenges and you have a well-spring of clusters to manipulate … and with a now totally corrupt to the point of criminality Gov’t, the Sky-Channel is their limit!

There must be some psychological term to describe this clustering effect in groups, but I won’t go looking for it, satisfied as I am that I can see it in action among many bloggers and social media posters … on Twitter for instance, it is not an uncommon thing for groups to cluster to “pile on” singular identities to bludgeon them off the board … we see such moments as the “cancel culture” groups … the anti this or that groups … we saw it in spades against individuals like J.K.Rowling … right or wrong, it became an avalanche of trolling … it can verge on bullying when it becomes a concentrated force.

I personally witnessed it on another social media platform some years back where a moderator, backed by a “rising star” poster on the site combined forces to attack another person and then by “magnetic attraction” others who had no part in the discussion, joined in their cooperative attack to add their infantile opinions as little more than a background shout of noise to what became the collective howling down of any opposition …

This strange yet powerful attraction of the insecure individual to join forces with those they see as a more powerful voice that will give them, vicariously, added importance to an otherwise insignificant mumble of their own, makes for a cluster of individually weak, but collectively strong voting bloc of the undecided voters that in an election won or lost on a one-seat majority is a much sought out number.

Be warned … the next election is already being ‘war-gamed’ on what that slime-bag of newscorp pustulance; Campbell, gave away last Sunday … the playing against each other of Australian worker to immigrant worker/student … making note of the Chinese/Indian ethnicity … then the playing against trade-workers in building to cheap labour-hire imported workers, not to mention that old standby … the “overpaid indigenous community” against the long-suffering suburban white community … particularly in these times of JobKeeper/Seeker … and then of course, we have those others mentioned above …

It may become an adage worthy in replacing the old; “In numbers there is strength” … with; “In clusters, there is an election win.”

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  1. Joseph Carli

    One of the most accurate points made during the Trump Presidency was a bloke from America saying ; ” Working White people didn’t vote for Trump because they thought he would help them…but rather because they wanted him to hurt those that they hated”…and that’s how clustering works…

  2. Harry Williams

    Clustering also works by perpetuating academic myths that the working class are against an O/S workforce. There are many who comment on what the working class believe having, never been on a construction site or have been part of the blue collar labour market. Sure there are many racists among the w/c but one shouldn’t extrapolate all points of view from the one segment. For the last 20years of my working life I worked as a casual metalworker for L/H firms and direct employment on Power Stations, Aluminium Smelters, Steel Works and other industries in the Hunter Valley. To be so dismissive of the workers points of view is at the very least elitist in tone. I have also studied L/H for a PHD and if the authors wanted to go back in history to the era of Howard/Reith/Vanstone they would see the rorts begin to pile up. Although it must be said that the Keating era first introduced the mass use of 457 visas. But if one examines the reasons behind this so called need, it must be concluded that the lack of support of TAFE and employers willing to employ apprentices must be a contributing factor. But using good old Aussie know how it’s easier to import workers rather than train them. And I might add much of the imported skills base leaves a lot to be desired.

  3. Harry Lime

    Jesus,Joseph, (and Mary),I can envisage someone from the Liar’s clandestine office either wanting to employ your services,or otherwise make you an offer you can’t refuse.So how do the alternative government deal with it?They seem to be struggling somewhat at the moment,given Murdoch’s shit constantly lying and propogandising.Are we in the end game, or the end times as Smirko seems to believe?Thought provoking article for someone of my advanced, forgetful years.

  4. Joseph Carli

    Harry Williams…Of course there are only the usual percentage of all classes that hold fierce racist opinions against imported workers..even it some of those workers are from European Union countries…But I have witnessed racism from workers, themselves of a ethnicity that itself was once villified…but now, having become “Aussiefied”, consider themselves of a class legitimately authorised to curse other new-arrivals…

    Ex Sen. Bernardi did his level best to cluster people of his ethnicity to join him in a modern version of “Mussolini-R-Us” political party..

  5. Michael Taylor

    The Brexit point is interesting. Well, not interesting, but sad.

    The ‘No’ vote – according to the polls – was a safe bet. But then with a week to go something changed all that: Murdoch. He played the ‘race card’ and swung the vote.

    Geez he’s a proper bastard.

  6. Joseph Carli

    My point about how “clustering” works is proven by the manner in which most regular commentators on this site have been leap-frogging over and back of my article to rail incessantly on articles either side…One would suppose this is NOT because my article in Q’ wasn’t worthy of more debate, It has sat near the top of the “most viewed” for the last two, it has to be the most worrying conundrum in any election..but rather, the lack of attention..I would that the author of the article was despised enough to warrant avoiding commentary so as to “teach him a lesson”…the exact excuses for examples of “clustering” last election and in the Brexit / Trump situations…

    I have to say..I expected no less…

  7. Joseph Carli

    I will add that this is why some disgruntled Labor voters go over to The Greens…NOT because they think The Greens can deliver on any of the extreme policies they propose (they haven’t been able to deliver for over 20 years!), but rather their methodology of introducing sound policy alongside some totally unacceptable rider or other measure that Labor then is forced to reject..thereby wedging Labor so they seem to side with the LNP (the LNP btw. loving it!) so we then get a cluster of disgruntled Labor voters seeking The Green box to tick so as to “teach Labor a lesson”…..That’s how clustering works…and that’s how The Greens end up working for The LNP…

  8. Arnd

    Hey, Joseph – after our last exchange re. China’s Belt and Road, I deliberately decided to refrain from crowding you again straight away. But seeing how you seem to be pining for debate, I’ll make a contribution:

    Let me recap: the 68′ student unrest did not completely pass me by – “Sous les paves, la plage” – but I was only just out of kindergarten then. I first took real notice of disaffection with politics as a teenager in the middle 70s in what was then W.-Germany: some references was made to “Wahlvieh” – voting cattle, to be corralled in their respective pens by any means fair or foul, milked for their vote, and then let go, to be thoroughly ignored until the next election. Thus it seems that your ideas in regards to “clustering” has precedent.

    As to the vexing question why voters vote against their own interests, it is very difficult to go past Marx’s ideas concerning “false consciousness”. Of course, this is a subject about which many voluminous books have been written. The Frankfurt School arose from trying to answer why the German social democrats voted with the Reich’s reactionaries in favour of war supplies, thereby guaranteeing workers being sent to fight the Kaiser’s war, rather than siding with their French comrades, and advancing the international revolution.

    So the problem goes back …

    And the insights, such as they are, of the Frankfurt School have not as yet been universally accepted, but quite on the contrary, sparked much further heated and as yet inconclusive debate. To put it mildly.

    There is the phenomenon of the”aspirational voter”, who tends to vote so as to advance, not his or her actual interests, but the interests of people whose circumstances s/he aspires to! Since most people aspire to better circumstances than their current ones, this phenomenon, aggregated over a whole constituency, results in the formulation and pursuit of a political agenda aimed at addressing the problems of an imaginary population in significantly better circumstances than the actually existing ones. Or in other words, the whole country is ahead of itself.

    Another related problem stems from widespread, but grossly mistaken assumptions about individual agency, and the notion that we have much more influence over our lives than we actually do. This – meritocracy – has, of late, become the subject of academic enquiry. Belatedly, because the whole edifice of neo-liberalism is based on such mistaken neo-calvinist notions – variations of which have been accepted by the progressive side of politics just as enthusiastically as by the reactionaries. Even if the progressive versions are slightly more socially sophisticated – and thereby substantially more insidious.

    Working off that last observation, I am driven to conclude that within the present late bourgeois democratic structures, workers and the dispossessed and imiserated have no choice but to vote against their own interests. Or, as Marx said, contribute to “determining exactly which member of the bourgeoisie shall misrepresent their interests in parliament”.

    “You have no chance. Use it wisely!”

  9. Joseph Carli

    Well..Arnd…I have to thank you and give salute for that glorious comment…it appears to enlighten all those “dark corners” that I could just speculate upon…and with, I might add, a damn sight better elocution and wit!….You know, I have always been suspect of The Greens with their policy Bomboniere boxes full of “warm-fuzzies”…

    Sadly, your comment, along with just a couple of others above were all I could conjure out of a legion of posters lamenting on the dastardly behaviour of the bleedin’ obvious…perhaps next time I may be able to shake the tree for a more deeper debate….again…thanks for the was enlightening..

    May I add a bit of Thorsten Veblen..: ” The institution of a leisure class has an effect not only upon social structure but also upon the individual character of the members of society. So soon as a given proclivity or a given point of view has won acceptance as an authoritative standard or norm of life it will react upon the character of the members of the society which has accepted it as a norm. It will to some extent shape their habits of thought and will exercise a selective surveillance over the development of men’s aptitudes and inclinations. This effect is wrought partly by a coercive, educational adaptation of the habits of all individuals, partly by a selective elimination of the unfit individuals and lines of descent. Such human material as does not lend itself to the methods of life imposed by the accepted scheme suffers more or less elimination as well as repression. The principles of pecuniary emulation and of industrial exemption have in this way been erected into canons of life, and have become coercive factors of some importance in the situation to which men have to adapt themselves. “

  10. Joseph Carli

    “So the problem goes back …”

    Arnd…there is also this from the Roman Historian.. ; “It is true that the history of past centuries ought to be the instructress of the present; but not in the vulgar sense, as if one could simply by turning over the leaves discover the conjunctures of the present in the records of the past, and collect from these the symptoms for a political diagnosis and the specifics for a prescription; it is instructive only so far as the observation of older forms of culture reveals the organic conditions of civilization generally– the fundamental forces everywhere alike, and the manner of their combination everywhere different–and leads and encourages men, not to unreflecting imitation, but to independent reproduction.” (Mommsen ; History of Rome, chap 11, bk 5.).

  11. Joseph Carli

    Ode to Machiavelli’s Discourses of Titus Livy.

    Y’know..I can sympathise with Machiavelli,
    Seeing how things at this moment are not very
    Agreeable..somewhat friable..if’n you’ll allow…
    And HE did avow to explain with a lengthy refrain
    The deeper meanings of one : Titus Livius..THE man.

    I have picked over his “Discourses” as one does pick,
    Thread-bits from a new coat..or the currants, thick
    From grannys fruit loaf..very nice..’til she thanks
    You with a rap of the wooden spoon, you’ll soon
    Learn to pay close attention to such indelible rune..

    And wonder, like he, whether such honour indeed,
    Bestowed upon those ancients, and their seed be
    But an impersonation of admired esteem,
    Less one’s smarts be seen as hollow sincerity, given as trope
    To impertination so vain as to promenade that path again and again….and again?

    Wisdom admired..but never imitated, even diluted, you may plea
    So that WE, who have gained this Earth and now lost our soul,
    Given, on the whole, to the false god of intellectual flattery.
    Assault and battery on lost integrity exchanged impressionably
    For mutual back-slapping and the odd “gold echidna”.

    I wouldn’t be kidding yer if I was to say, with an underbreath ; “Ole’”
    That the measure of intellect today is, sadly, awry
    Y, ‘tis enough to make one cry..given what history has bequeathed
    So each generation in turn could turn over a new leaf.
    With so much, so ample that we have’s that simple.
    “For our civil laws are but decisions by Jurisconsults,
    That teached our present Jurisconsults methods to judge…”
    A drudge with nought to follow but example and re-assemble
    Forebears preamble on things “socially medicinal”, as endocrine?
    Should work out fine ..if we but listen, not descend to vicious hissing.

    The biggest mistake being; not understanding history,
    But make mystery of what we WILL NOT see..Is it just me?
    Or is it thee who takes more pleasure from the infinite variety
    Of incidents in this or that society and scandalous pleasure
    As your measure of understanding, rather than demanding

    We take heed to the answers to those deeds, as if these
    Times have changed the behaviour of men and then of women too
    It’s a shoo-in to see ; the Sun the Moon, the sea and thee
    Have not changed their motions and power, hour on hour
    From ancient times, I’d avower and from such error; allora!

    I’d therefore call thee to hark to the wisdom of Titus Livy
    And give time to study the erstwhile text of Machiavelli
    Written in testament for us to understand such history
    For ; Zanobi Buondelmonti and Cosimo Rucellai..
    Which for this pleasure I now bequeath to thee…from me.

  12. Arnd

    Hello again, Joseph,

    ruminations over John Lord’s “A tale of two wrongs: A rape and the Prime Minister’s response” ended up in – well, not so much “deep” rather than “turbid” waters … and I furiously agree that once people’s propensity to fall into line and “‘cohere’ to form a confederacy of sympathetic agreement” has gathered momentum, it becomes difficult to even only hint that there might be different perspectives to the same problem.

    Which, and as you properly recognised, brings us smack-bang right back into the centre of the issues that you raised on this thread. Which thread, incidentally, and as you also noted, attracted much less commentary than the other one.

    That difference in active participation is, in my view, due to these discussions operating at different levels: commentary on the Higgins case is about voicing opinion. Commentary about “clustering” is the next level of complexity up: it is, as it were, about “opinion about opinion”. It is, in essence, about the art and practice of how to disagree constructively – which, in a political world mostly understood as a “winner takes all” type highly competitive market place of ideas, is anathema, and must necessarily be so, because to concede to the opponent is to weaken one’s own side of the argument.

    I would be interested in exploring these issues further. It likely will turn out a fairly big task – as I mentioned earlier, “it is a subject about which many voluminous books have been written”. But I have, so far only for my own benefit, identified a thread that looks quite promising.

    Are you up for it, Joseph?

  13. Joseph Carli

    Arnd…As a concern for the now contagious loss of “corporate memory” and in light of the MANY..MANY..MANY brick-walls of commentary stonewalling I have met on social media sites, most notably now Twitter.. that thrive off “identiry politics”…a thing that I believe has killed the Left-wing of politics..I make it a habit now to copy and paste such commentary logs so that I can go back to refer to where, what or whom took the conversation to a different direction…

    If you recall on John Lord’s post commentary, I made point to cease commentary because I could see it was getting bogged down in identity politics and whilst yourself was “shoring up the battlements with your English Alive”..I could only look on with a shaking head in despair of your situation…a position that I have found myself in much too often…I will remark in your defence that with your skilled use of knowledge of your subject and the elucidation of the language, the usual other “hem-huggers” dared not poke their penny’s worth in for fear of looking too much of the goose!

    But to your query…I have been “up to it” for many a year and many a battle…if you go to my blog-site ; , you will see there my opinions and you can comment there..also I can give you my email addres there if requested for a more personal conversation..My most recent story posted there (yesterday) may interest you in light of a metaphor of the political direction I believe we are mistakenly heading…

  14. leefe

    How is insisting that men be held accountable for their behaviour “getting bogged down in identity politics”?

  15. Joseph Carli just did the remarkable thing of both asking and answering your own question in a one line sentence…I take it back….there’s a brilliant mind working away there…somewhere.

  16. leefe

    Joseph, for once, can you just answer the question without all the deflection, condescension and smartarsery? Please explain. Pretend I don’t know any fancy words and explain it.

  17. Kaye Lee

    Are discussions of ‘class’ identity politics? Is demanding that the ‘people who make things’ stage a violent coup to seize control from people who went to private schools and universities identity politics? Is that clustering?

    We all get passionate about the things that we see hurting us. That is different for all of us. I don’t understand the term identity politics being used as a derogatory. Does it preclude disabled people from talking about disability issues? Does it preclude coalminers from talking about their future? Or is it just if race or gender are involved?

  18. Joseph Carli

    I moved my last comment to “trash” as I have posted the story on another site and I didn’t want to cross-post.

  19. Arnd

    Hi again, Joseph, and please accept my apologies for my extended radio silence. My day job got in the way. (You’ve been a chippy, you know how it goes: you’re rained off one job for days on end, finally decide to crank up a long-pending inside job, only to have the weather turn nice again the exact moment you have taken your inside job to maximum mess and client inconvenience. I knew that that is what would happen, and lo and behold, it was what did happen!)

    That, and the mind-boggling complexity of the subject we are attempting to investigate. Invariably, my attempts to contemplate possible replies to your post ended up going off on interminable tangents, and a different tangent every time. Clearly, it is one thing to criticise one particular aspect of modern political discourse and reality. It is quite another to propose solutions that do not – Law of Unintended Consequences – make things worse instead of better.

    Trying to avoid going off on unpredictable tangents, I intend to restrict this post to two issues only.

    Firstly, I think it would be useful to spend more effort on trying to comprehend the incomprehensible magnitude of the problems affecting (modern) politics: they are truly open-ended and limitless. I like Robert Nozick’s take on “philosophical activity”:
    “The preface of Anarchy, State, and Utopia contains a passage about “the usual manner of presenting philosophical work”—i.e., its presentation as though it were the absolutely final word on its subject. Nozick believes that philosophers are really more modest than that and aware of their works’ weaknesses. Yet a form of philosophical activity persists which “feels like pushing and shoving things to fit into some fixed perimeter of specified shape.” The bulges are masked or the cause of the bulge is thrown far away so that no one will notice. Then “Quickly, you find an angle from which everything appears to fit perfectly and take a snapshot, at a fast shutter speed before something else bulges out too noticeably.” After a trip to the darkroom for touching up, “[a]ll that remains is to publish the photograph as a representation of exactly how things are, and to note how nothing fits properly into any other shape.” So how does Nozick’s work differ from this form of activity? He believed that what he said was correct, but he doesn’t mask the bulges: “the doubts and worries and uncertainties as well as the beliefs, convictions, and arguments.”


    Not only do I agree, but I take it a significant step further: I was forced to admit, so far only to myself mainly, that any attempt to delineate a coherent doctrine (I don’t like the term “ideology”) invariably ends up in internal contradictions, and shipwrecked on its own fundamental principles. Look up “Münchhausen Trilemma”, and have a look at the Incompleteness Theorems, as formulated by Kurt Gödel back in the 1930s for further theoretical elucidation. The theoretical technicalities of these theorems are beyond me, of course. But Gödel himself famously applied his insight into logic to the political and (US) constitutional realm, and found them to be wanting, in ways which deeply resonate with me. There are important and far-reaching implications arising from this set of observations which need further exploration.

    The second issue I want to raise is closer to the subject of your initial article: I suggest that there is nothing wrong with “clustering” as such: it is a long-standing, and indeed banal fact that there is safety and strength in numbers, and that political success is predicated on being able to rally people to your cause. Thus, whether clustering is acceptable depends on the cause. And it depends on how you do the rallying. The objectionable populist rallying that is currently gathering pace again is predicated on assuring your target audience that their problems are someone else’s fault: unemployed bludgers, migrants and refugees, ferals, or the patriarchy, international corporations, the 1%, Robert Murdoch, …

    It is unfortunately much harder to get people to take a good hard look at themselves. I know that, because I speak from experience.

  20. Arnd

    Hi leefe,

    I am with Joseph here, when he says that you managed to ask and answer a question in one single sentence:

    “How is insisting that men be held accountable for their behaviour “getting bogged down in identity politics”?”

    If you had asked that generic “people” be held responsible, you would not have implicitly communicated a particular point of view.

    Replace “men” with any other term you like, and matters should become obvious: insisting that “refugees” be held accountable, or “Aborigines”, or LGBQTIs or “drug addicts”, almost invariably implies a particular direction of argument.

    Now, I said “implies”. You do not expressly state your point of view. But using such specific terms does warrant further enquiry by other interlocutors as to the specifics of your outlook, and your affinity to a particular sub-group of society. Feminism, in this case.

    I am not saying that that is necessarily a bad thing. But own it. Don’t deny it!

    Though there is a further detrimental aspect to “identity politics” that I believe is becoming ever more pronounced. It has to do with the potential for dissent (with the dominant paradigm) to become an integral part of the disenter’s identity. I found this to be the case with virtually all anarchists whose company I sought out in my younger days: they did oppose the oppressive and exploitative structures and dynamics of contemporary society – but over time this opposition became an integral, and even the defining aspect of their personal self-understanding. Take away capitalism, and most anarchists wouldn’t know who they are anymore. Thus, in a strange way, many (most?) dissenters seem to develop a psychological need for the thing they dissent with to continue existing. Or, as an Adventist minister once put it: “The thing of which most missionaries seem assiduously to remain oblivious is, that there will be no need for preachers in heaven.”

    I take Robin DiAngelo, the author of “White Fragility”, to be a particularly striking example of this insistent attitude: white people must continue to deconstruct their racist attitudes (under DiAngelo’s tutelage), but can never succeed. Thus, racism really begins to look like the gift that keeps on giving – to BLM activists, and those they manage to cluster behind themselves.

    And that, to me, is the point where identity politics jumps the shark.

  21. Joseph Carli

    Hello again, Arnd…and I believe THAT is your first name..; Arnd…and it sounds like you do contract work for an architech….I did a lot of cottage / commercial work…and I do know what you mean…I am glad you got back as I was interested in your comments…I sent you an email that I took the liberty to obtain from your registration here…Did you get it?..
    As for your comment above concerning the necessary limitations of “definate philosophy”, I tend to avoid that trap by shifting my “philosophies” over to the writing of short stories that give hint of what I believe..and I let the reader take their own journey from there…I sent you the link to such a story pertinent to this latest public outrage but I don’t know if you received here it is..: I think the subject matter and subsequent actions in that story give broad hint to the dark places where these post-modern disasters are leading us..and on that I will say no more lest I fall into the same trap that your “Robert Nozik” talks of..
    I would prefer to discuss any theories or just plain chatter of the trade via email, as I do not think there is the desire on these pages to delve to any great depth of conversation without bringing the “dogs of war” from the cabal down upon one…
    I DO have a theory on the resurection of the Trade Guilds to form a “Trade Artists Guild” to present to the public writings from people working in trade… I even once ventured to place such a piece upon this

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