On the Multiculturalism/Zizek debate

I put off writing this because I had already got the subject out of my system, but it has returned and it’s very difficult to ignore: it is the question of multiculturalism, and more specifically what this means to anti-fascists.

Richard Seymour recently produced a blog entry about philosopher Slavoj Zizek’s attempts to critically analyse violence and provocation carried out against the Strojan family – an extended family of 31 Gypsies, 14 of them children.

Seymour’s beef is with two things: firstly the outcome of the events, which culminated in the police succumbing to pressure by violent mobs and forcing the family to leave, who, as he notes, had they not “driven the gypsies out, the racist mob would have done so with fire and blades.”

The second thing Seymour has beef about is Zizek’s poor research on the matter. Zizek has used this example to underline his own controversial view of multiculturalism (more of which in a moment) but what he has failed to do is properly understand what happened to the family. As Seymour says in a reply to critics of the aforementioned entry:

I find no evidence that the Strojan family are car thieves, and they didn’t murder anyone. It is true that locals blamed the Strojan family for a number of thefts, but it’s also true that they acknowledge when pressed that the Strojans have been scapegoated on this issue.

I’m with Seymour here; had Zizek done his homework, he would’ve seen that this is a case of scapegoating, or at best a heavy-handed response to petite-theft among some individuals of a family, perhaps spurred on because of the family’s racial background. Zizek here is not being racist, he has just erroneously placed this disgraceful event in the wrong context; by implication I feel that Zizek’s “apologia for anti-Roma racism” is due to a misjudgement by the Slovenian.


As it happens I find Zizek’s critique of multiculturalism very useful (which is why one can agree with Seymour on this issue, and still be in defence of Slavoj Zizek, so to speak). I will attempt to place it in its correct context.

Multiculturalism, according to Kenan Malik, author of From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy, has come to be defined as a policy promoting diversity among a society of people with fixed identities, partly as a reaction to inharmonious feeling at a time of increased immigration into the UK. For Malik this has simultaneously become the problem and solution to intolerance. While it rather nobly aims to celebrate difference, it also rather crudely pigeon-holes people, on account of their racial or national heritage.

In trying to effect “respect for pluralism [and] avowal of identity politics” – which have come to be “hallmarks of a progressive, anti-racist outlook” – segregation has simply become institutionalised.

As a consequence to the respect agenda, all cultures have become of equal value, which may mean that in purely multicultural terms everything is permissible if it can be justified on the grounds of cultural heritage – which leads to the question who can authoritatively account for what a cultural trait is (for Malik, such policies in the eighties served only to strengthen conservative Muslim leaders in Birmingham, on the daft assumption that they alone could authoritatively account for what Islam is).

For Zizek, there is a bourgeois liberal variant of multiculturalism that is repulsed by (far) right wing populism of the Other (the immigrant for example) to the extent that it starts to fetishise the Other. Not content with opposing all racism directed at this Other, it starts to think the Other can do no wrong. Take as an example the song “Kill the Boer, Kill the Farmer” often sung by Julius Malema, President of the African National Congress Youth League; the real anti-racist would oppose this song in spite of its historical context, for whatever the white farmers’ crimes during the apartheid, this is a song that is derogatory towards a race. The bourgeois liberal fetishist, of the ilk to which Zizek refers, may justify singing the song on the grounds that such retaliation is historically justified (you could perhaps ascribe to this the notion of “white guilt”).

For Zizek, the bourgeois liberal justifying Malema singing the song is akin to expressing the belief that Melama knows no better, leading Zizek to assert that certain modes of politically correct tolerance of the Other is grounded upon the belief that certain groups can be judged differently (which is why the BNP for example are wrong for being racist populists, but Malema is clear on the grounds that he has experienced racism himself). This ends up being monoculturalism based upon a rather stereotypical ideal of how the Other should act – the point being that the bourgeois liberal, for Zizek, is deluding himself by thinking he is a mutliculturalist, since it is almost a colonial understanding of the foreign Other who he is identifying.

In short, this notion of multiculturalism masks a racist idea of the Other who needs to be “tolerated” (for more on this see Naadir Jeewa’s excellent analysis).

The confusion here lies in who we identify as this bourgeois liberal, naïve apologist? For many people who subscribe to multiculturalism this simply doesn’t resonate. For me, Zizek’s analysis is less a critique of multiculturalism, and more a critique of naïve, neo-colonial monoculturalism (which I assume he is well aware of, though if not, we ought to understand that the bourgeois liberal variant of multiculturalism is not necessarily inherent to multiculturalism proper). But maybe the word multiculturalism lends itself too easily to the idea that cultural relativism is appropriate– since we’re immediately in a struggle to identify what we can call culture (authority on which, as Malik explains, can often fall into the wrong hands).

When most people support multiculturalism, what they mean is that a country ought not to have a dominant national character immigrants are obliged to adopt as a guarantee of their debt to their new homeland. Instead a country should allow all to practice what they wish, as they wish, provided that it doesn’t harm anyone. Perhaps I’ll adopt the term socialist universalism?


In defence of Wagner’s Israeli enthusiasts

Imagine a history rewritten: would it be a victory for the Nazis if they were forced to live side by side with the Jews they most vehemently disliked? Of course it wouldn’t be, and though it upsets and astounds me that today I have to share oxygen with people who hold views so unpalatable it makes me wince, part of my support for multiculturalism is heightened in the knowledge that we live in a society where to be law abiding means respecting people of cultures and sharing experiences together; and there is not a thing racists of any colour can do about it.

I think about this today, as I see news of outrage that an Israeli orchestra should be able to play a festival in Bayreuth, Southern Germany, dedicated to the music of Wagner.

The great granddaughter of Wagner, Katharina, who was to visit Israel to formally invite the orchestra, will now have to cancel her visit – which she said was an opportunity to “heal wounds”.

According to a report in The Guardian, Holocaust survivor groups are saying “it was inexplicable that the orchestra would break a decades’ old unofficial boycott to perform music by Hitler’s favourite composer, who also held antisemitic views”.

Furthermore, Israeli historian and Holocaust survivor Noah Klieger, on the topic of the boycott, told the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle: “It’s a sentimental ban. As long as some of us are still alive, people should refrain from imposing Wagner on us.”

Far be it for me to disagree with holocaust survivors; so I’ll quote from two of our most loved media figures: Stephen Fry and Slavoj Zizek.

Fry recently gave a question and answer session at the Wagner Society following the showing of his film Wagner and Me where he said: “You can’t allow the perverted views of pseudo-intellectual Nazis to define how the world should look at Wagner. He’s bigger than that, and we’re not going to give them the credit, the joy of stealing him from us.”

My point about the Nazis living side by side with the Jews relates very closely to Fry’s point; that Hitler appreciated Wagner should not stop Jews from appreciating Wagner too – and certainly not at the order of certain Israelis – as this only serves to divide those able to enjoy good art. But further still, as Wagner was an anti-Semite himself, nothing should please us more that orchestral representatives of the Jewish state make steps to end the taboo which allows Nazis to define how the world looks at Wagner.

In a piece called Why is Wagner worth saving? Zizek vents his criticism on what he calls the “historicist commonplace” that says “in order to understand a work of art, one needs to know its historical context”. To this end, Zizek notes “too much of a historical context can blur the proper contact with a work of art”.

Zizek claims that there is the temptation when listening to Wagner to imagine that every sub-text is anti-Semitic, but, using the examples of Parsifal and the Ring, tries to prove this isn’t always correct. In the Ring according to Zizek, it is not Alberich’s renunciation of love for power that is the source of all evil, but rather Wotan’s disruption of the natural balance, “succumbing to the lure of power, giving preference to power over love”, which spells doom, meaning also that evil does not come from the outside, but is complicit with Wotan’s own guilt. With Parsifal, the elitist circle of the pure-blooded is not jeopardised by external contaminators such as copulation by the Jewess Kundry, but rather from inside; “it is Titurel’s excessive fixation of enjoying the Grail which is at the origins of the misfortune”.

The point being is Wagner “undermines the anti-Semitic perspective according to which the disturbance always ultimately comes from outside, in the guise of a foreign body which throws out of joint the balance of the social organism”.

The overarching thesis of Zizek is that the anti-Semitic sub-text is not always appropriate when engaging with Wagner, and if this art is separate from the evil of the early twentieth century, then there is reason to save Wagner.

The Wagner boycott is one example of denying the world a great artist, and allowing the Nazis a small victory. The point is Wagner can, and must, be enjoyed by anyone who wishes to, regardless of race, if not for the reason that he would’ve disliked this himself.

Eugene Terre’Blanche is killed

Eugene Terre’Blanche, the Boer-Afrikaner and founder of the white supremacist Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) has been killed over a pay dispute.

His body was found in his bed where according to Police spokeswoman Adele Myburgh a machete was found on his body and a knobkerry club was lying next to the bed.

A 21-year-old man and a 15-year-old boy, employers of Terre’Blanche, have been arrested for the murder and say that their motivation was not being paid for the work they had done on his farm.

News of his death has said to have worried many that racial polarisation is returning to South Africa.

Pete Brook, who blogs against prisons at Prison Photography, had this to say about the far right leader:

Terre’Blanche instigated many acts of heinous violence and murder. Terre’Blanche was also a terrorist. In 1998, Terre’Blanche accepted “political and moral responsibility” before South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission for a bombing campaign to disrupt the 1994 elections in which 21 people were killed and hundreds injured.

In 2001 Terre’Blanche was convicted to 6 years in prison for attacking a petrol station worker and the attempted murder of a security guard which had taken place in 1996. After this spell he was said to have moderated some of his racist views. But this was to be untrue, not least because in 2008 the AWB had been re-formed, with Terre’Blanche being the founding member of the youth wing, fighting for “his people”.

He was on the fringes of politics but his presence was well known of, being seen more as a joke than a political activist to fear, though he was said to have had very close contacts with the architects of the Apartheid, enforced between 1948 and 1994.

His death comes at a time when attitudes of race, and racial tensions are appearing again. The chant “Kill the Boer, Kill the Farmer” by Julius Malema, President of the African National Congress Youth League, is a song that is used to flair tensions, particularly aimed at white farmers. It has been sung at the funeral of an ANC member, and in front of 2000 Zanu-PF Youth members in Zimbabwe. He has also said this about white farmers at the Zimbabwean rally:

“We want the mines. They have been exploiting our minerals for a long time. Now it’s our turn to also enjoy from these minerals. They are so bright, they are colourful, we refer to them as white people, maybe their colour came as a result of exploiting our minerals and perhaps if some of us can get opportunities in these minerals we can develop some nice colour like them.”

The High Court has put a ban on the song, but the ANC challenged the vow saying that the court had forgotten the “historical context” of the song (which was sang durng Apartheid era) though civil rights groups like AfriForum have said that the song is deliberately inflammatory and support the hearing.

It has been said that between the years 1997 and 2002 white unemployment has risen by 106%. Researchers, quoted by Reuters, now estimate “some 450,000 whites, of a total white population of 4.5 million, live below the poverty line and 100,000 are struggling just to survive” in places like caravan camps and other squats.

With figures like these, and unhelpful chants by racist politicians, tensions might see a rise, causing South African President Jacob Zuma to call for calm. Though should this be challenged by efforts from groups like Afriforum to call for real equality, its effects certainly do not need to be anywhere near as harsh (an understatement) as they were only a few years ago.

Stating the bleedin’ obvious

Al Sharpton: “Obama’s first year has shown that the United States is not a post-racial society“.

Well you could blow me down with a feather!

Rod Liddle and shock politics

January last year the independent journalist Ian Burrell interviewed Rod Liddle, to try and get to the bottom of all the offence he causes the ‘liberal left’. It’s all to cause a stir, we find, luckily (phew!), to wind up the band of loonies who operate on the basis of, let us call it “political correctness gone mad”!

Liddle, in the interview, proved that his racist jibes were little more than immature twaddle: “I find racist jokes funnier now than I did 30 years ago because it’s so socially unacceptable”.

But he soon flits back into what we know is a serious comment – “I’ve never had a go at Muslims, I’ve always had a go at Islam” (I’ve said elsewhere what might be wrong with some people’s attempts do this).

The reason, it says in the interview, that Liddle doesn’t live in London is because he would prefer to be away from the liberal elite – usually the sorts who would be in Liddle’s profession. But judging by his Spectator blog entry – that Spectator blog entry – it might have something to do with his opinion that ‘[t]he overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community’ – of which, as Dianne Abbott has said, is “statistically false,” about the crimes which Liddle has listed (if anything it is disproportionate, in which case to mockingly suggest this is a contribution, ignores the proper commitment to uncovering what the causes are. The extent to his sociological investigation for this and other comments is simply his belief that multiculturalism doesn’t work – which in other research laden tasks would be a write-off).

Of the BNP there is serious cause for concern (for decency) and there, after, matched – for childish balance –  with a joke. Firstly, he explains that he feels more comfortable with Millwall fans than other columnists: “It’s funny, y’know, quite a few of my friends would be inclined to vote BNP, and I don’t think they’re racist” and then towards the end

“I’m interested in the BNP tendency within Britain’s conservationists – ‘It’s a foreign animal, kill it!’ We exterminated the coypu in East Anglia, a very ugly rodent which was introduced from South America for its fur, escaped and set up base in East Anglia where it caused damage to riverbanks. So they shot ’em all. The RSPB said recently shall we shoot all those parakeets because they’re not British. ‘They come over here with their green wings…'”

With the tools of a deluded missionary, he wants to tackle taboos like his heroes of comedy Ricky Gervais and Chris Morris (there are small problems with a writer who seriously dabbles in what can be safely regarded as race related stereotypes and, at worst, racism, while simultaneously viewing himself being in the footsteps of comedians satirising polite society) but though he insists he is a “fundamentalist liberal”, there is a fundamental blur between his politics and that of the worst, flimsiest, offending for offending’s sake, Sun reader turned to the pen.

The comedian Jimmy Carr, who threatened continued legal action against fellow comedian (sic) Jim Davidson for stealing a joke of his, noted that when Davidson tells a taboo-breaking joke, he has to look behind his back – the point being that he might actually believe the “ironic” joke to be true. I should imagine the same of Liddle in this context, and where his comedic influences do satire, one can never be quite sure of him exactly.

The Independent interview noted above was very revealing of what I consider to be Liddle’s naughty schoolboy approach to offence, albeit where one can not tell the difference between the satire and the truth of his statements, but little has been said of Liddle recently of his being favourite for the editorial job in the Independent itself. There was an article about that blog entry, and also of Alexander Lebedev’s Indy sale talks, but nothing of late to contribute to the ongoing controversy that surrounds him (proven, no less, by a Dianne Abbot-led early day motion on the matter).

With the knowledge inside that camp, it makes one wonder what is there to hide, doesn’t it?

Further Sources:

Left Foot Forward takes a look at the anti-Semitic streak which runs through the comments supposedly made by Liddle on the infamous Millwall football forum

On the Fringe notes the use of social media in this campaign

Jon Slattery asks why fuss has only been made about Liddle, and not about the former KGB man who is potentially going to be the owner of the Indy

Dan Sabbagh identifies possible strategic reasons as to why the Indy might be exploring tory turf, and pondering on what this could do for its left-of-centre audience and popular staff writers such as Johann Hari.

Rights for Whites (and everyone else too)

Kjartan Páll Sveinsson, a research and policy analyst at the Runnymede Trust, a year ago had (I assume, judging by this liberal conspiracy item) some input over the who cares about the white working class report. “Class is back – but in a racialised form; no longer just working class, but with an added distinction ‘white working class’.” The distinction is almost in apprehension of tension between groups, for if the white working class are disadvantaged (or feel so) then who – by way of balance – is advantaged? Is it the black and other ethnic minority groups who fall under the bracket of working class. It is hard to see what is at play here. But I’ll give it a shot.

The white working class being failed, even at educational attainment – based on racial categories and those who are receiving free school meals – has been shown to be part of the new labour package, since the telegraph also found that “48 per cent of the poorest white boys met targets in English and maths at primary school last year, compared with 82 per cent of Chinese pupils.”

But how this is channelled from then is the dodgy territory. The blame is sought from foreigners themselves.

Not only did “58% said they felt unrepresented compared with 46% of white middle class respondents to a Newsnight poll”,

52% of the white working class people questioned thought immigration was a bad thing (42% thought it was a good thing), while just 33% of white middle class people thought it bad (62% thought it a good thing). (see the BBC article)

Certain leftists run a huge risk when they say that to separate working class people by race institutionally is wrong, only because previously this has been how we have been able to acknowledge and target low achievements in minority groups. One such writer scorns the distinction as reactionary. Perhaps in some cases, by some people. Though it is necessary to distinguish these groups in order to target failing, where I’m sure this writer would agree there was before with the children of minority groups. It also provides us with a marker to show whether racism is institutional – this I am guessing is what informed John Denham’s recent decision to say that inequality is not reduced only to race (this has not been understood by some writers (see note below), who though are right to say that race related bullying might still exist – and I worry will never disappear entirely – government is not in the business discriminating against race, and a lot has been done to tackle racism institutionally).

Often people who make assumptions as to why one group of people are failing make 5 out of 2 and 2. I’m not prepared to do so here. There are many factors, and time will only tell whether this is a relatively small trend (that will throw up a series of pointers as to what it is) or a longer lasting hiccup in the educational system. One thing that can not help – which is more a socio-economic concern – is the laughter directed to certain members of the white working class. Johann Hari recently said

Base generalisations about the white working class are so frequent that we just don’t hear them any more. Words like “chav” and “pikey” have become mainstream, and Vicky Pollard is waved as a dystopian poster-girl for twenty-first century Britain.

George Galloway once commented about the Jade/Shilpa situation that though it was crass of Goody, the real point of blame was Shilpa’s snobbish attitude towards Jade. This is not to play down the petty language that Goody used, but what was less an issue for the media at the time was the part class had to play in the conflict, and to some extent this is symptomatic of the way class is played now – that there are certain members at the bottom who it is fine to poke fun at.

There was a series of complaints at the word ‘chav’ – one here and here, to name but two – centred around the fact that it is a barely veiled attempt to acceptably look down upon the some people in our society, namely the white working class – though actually those people to whom the word is directed are not racially specific.

It is said by some that negative attitudes towards gypsies is the last socially acceptable form of racism. Scorn and vilification of the white working class doesn’t contradict this, since by and large it is an attitude towards class. The attachment of the word ‘white’ used formally – like in government statistics – is a way of seeing whether there is a clear relationship in low attainment and race. By the media it is shorthand for those more likely to get pregnant earlier, those more likely to commit crime, or those unlikely to achieve as well, and realistically it wasn’t going to be long until this self-fulfilling prophecy came to fruition in details of educational attainment and so on. But this is not a race war, it is one of class attitudes.



Yasmin Alibhai Brown had written the evening standard article (that I’ve linked to above) yesterday, which, I felt, misunderstood John Denham’s message, and failed to look at the historical testimony that racism – both institutional and street level – has been massively reduced, even since the late nineties, therefore it is legitimate that the Labour party should accept a small victory – in spite of the successes of the BNP, which let us remember, the BNP have had to modify their language a great deal in order to achieve, therefore their appeal is based as much on their scaremongering and not only on people’s “avowed racist attitudes”. Remember, for example, Jon Cruddas’ remark that Barking isn’t awash with fascist saluting Nazi’s, there are wider issues here.

But her ignorance here is not isolated. One other example sticks out, and it is worth repeating here at length:

We want to shut our doors because of prejudice and envy. Young Poles and Lithuanians can find work and make something of their lives, while our own people are either too lazy or expensive to compete. Tax-paying immigrants past and present keep indolent British scroungers on their couches drinking beer and watching TV. We are despised because we seize opportunities these slobs don’t want.

Two fit white British men loiter outside my local bank. They beg. I asked if they wanted to clear out my back garden for a fair wage. They said I was one crazy lady. Polish Andrew did the job cheerfully and efficiently. God bless bloody foreigners who do our dirty work and are then damned by an ungrateful, obtuse nation. (see the rest of the article, if you really want to, here)

Musings on race and child thieves

Consider the statements x and y;

x) black people today are not equal to white people;

y) intelligence is up to 70% hereditary so inequality is natural.

Which one is the racist view? With statement y, were intelligence to be 70% hereditary, and inequality between races prevalent, would it be at all reasonable to suggest that blacks were not equal to whites? Equality in legal representation aside, does statement y logically imply statement x?

Well for a start not at all, because this posits that blacks are less equal to whites on the basis of intelligence, therefore we would ask on what basis intelligence is judged, and whether it is conclusive. But this isn’t the most  important question here. How was intelligence proven hereditary is the first question to ask, of more in a moment.

Is statement x racist? It seems to be a statement aiming at fact, in that it offers no more solution such as black people today don’t appear equal to white people. But then it could be a statement of fact that does not seek legitimacy with appeals to genetics, but rather statement x is true because societal ills render it so. On first glance x seems antagonistic, but if it were prefixed with in a society bent on racism black people today are not equal to white people, its meaning is altered.

And in fact this is exactly what statement x meant when it was said, reportedly, by Simone de Beauvoir on coming back to France after travelling during in the 1960’s. The statement, by virtue of its bluntness, was obviously going to be controversial, but then black people were not equal to white people, they were suppressed as such. With years of racist suppression, it is not surprising to find that in France in  the 1960’s, as de Beauvoir announced, blacks were not equal to whites.

Statement y however, this was the opinion of the authors Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, whose book The Bell Curve caused a storm at the time of its release in 1994 due to its findings on intelligence along racial lines. Herrnstein and Murray defend the theories of Charles Spearman, whose notion of g (general intelligence) posits that one tends to be, if one is good on a verbal test, good at maths tests, too. Critics of this theory point out that intelligence has many differing factors, such as memory, but Murray and Herrnstein choose to differentiate these factors as talents rather than intelligence proper.

The conclusion that Murray and Herrnstein reached when they gave their figures as blacks having lower intelligence quotients was not that schools were failing, racist society persists, or IQ is a redundant basis of intelligence testing. Rather, they argued that intelligence is largely hereditary, by their estimate up to 70 percent. Their findings have widely and rightly been dismissed on the grounds that quantitative results do not in turn prove heredibility, and also that the book aimed at dignifying racists and eugenicists. Indeed, the book does reference advocates of eugenics, many of whom were contributors to the publication Mankind Quarterly which is, as Charles Lane of the New York Review of Books described it, “founded, and funded, by men who believe in the genetic superiority of the white race”.

My point here is to distinguish statement x from y as the difference between a socially mediated, constructed and malleable point of note about the state of equality in society, and statements that are inferred from seeing inequality and assuming its determined, not by social inequality, but low intelligence, the equivalent to saying 2 and 2 is 5.

It was this war of words that entered my mind a few days ago when watching a programme on Roma Gypsies on the BBC called This World: Gypsy Child Thieves. We are entered into the murky world of street crime, stealing and begging from cash machine robberies, child exploitation and to illegal child marriages. We were also given an important glimpse of the attitudes of people living near Roma gypsies, which ranged from moderately evil to wishing death upon them (one man was quoted as saying “these people should die, but you cannot kill them”).

You can see here the link, children are born into the Roma community and are told to steal, as the programme noted, through tradition or through being marginalised. This will be passed on over and over through the generations that it will just seem normal to them. Being exposed to this at such a young age, one can not but think that this is just how things works.

But though it doesn’t take a genius to see that the lifestyle to beg, steal and commit crimes is not hereditary, the statement Roma gypsy children are thieves is true inasmuch as the statement black people today are not equal to white people was true in France, for de Beauvoir, in the 1960’s. It is true inasmuch as it is necessary to prefix the statement with in a community where the means of survival have included stealing, and children are sold off to organised criminal gangs, Roma gypsy children are thieves. It is mediated, and not a genetic blueprint. Point accepted that the statement is as bombastic as it is generalised, but to understand it, one must not deny it, but should attempt to legitimate the point that it is a construct, an ill.

Solutions? A harder topic. It would be easy for me to suggest trapping those gangs, but understandably, this would require much work, and would temporarily move the problem from one place to another (with the money not coming in from gangs paying for the children to work for them, families will have to find other ways. This in no way condones it, but it should be mentioned). One man who lived on the Roma site in Romania said;

Our children need to study, because if they carry on like this, if the new generations which grow up now continue in the same way, no-one will have us.

Near the end of the programme (before a section on the rich criminal ring leaders and their many huge houses, sickening) we are introduced to an Italian charity worker who deals with integrating Roma children and giving them educations. She had by her side a young adult of Roma descent who studied and has significant qualifications as a result. She is proof that the life of a child is not set in stone, but her being one of very few Roma children who have had education, however, proves that the task is difficult.