Millenial Solipsism

Complaining about the millennials has become something of a pastime over the last decade. It probably started in the 1990’s when people began to notice that the young were acting a little weird compared to previous generations. Raised on video games, good economic times and technology, young people coming out of college in the late 90’s seemed to lack anything resembling humility. By the time we got to the 2000’s, someone had come up with a cool new moniker for the next generation and everyone was bashing the millennials.

I noticed the same things as other people noticed about the kids, but my bet was reality would beat the stupid out of them as it has every generation. The fact is, every generation has had it a bit easier than their parents and that means each successive generation has come into the world a little less prepared for reality. My generation certainly had it easier than my parents and grandparents. My grandfather used to tease me by saying his generation was wooden ships and iron men, while my generation was iron ships and wooden men.

The millennials are now in their 30’s, at least the leading edge is in their 30’s, and it does not appear that reality has had much of an impact on this generation. Talk to employers about them and they start reeling off stories about the problems they have had with their young people. I know a number of business owners who have thrown in the towel and no longer hire anyone under forty, even if it means paying above market rate. These are companies that used to hire college graduates and train them for their specific work. Now, they let others do it.

Time waits for no one so whether anyone likes it or not, the millennials will be in charge soon enough. Look around the mass media and you see lots of boys and girls in their late 20’s and early 30’s offering up opinions and commentary about how you people screwed up the world. Since being a chattering skull requires little in the way of talent, it is no surprise this is where millennials are making their first impression. TV skulls just have to read their lines and look concerned. The on-line types just need to do the social justice warrior act.

The thing that you can’t help but notice with this generation is the strange solipsism that is their most highly developed feature. You see this in debates on-line as well as in the media. It usually takes the form of “explain to me why….” and assumes the thoughts and emotions of the person on the other end have no value. Their only reference point is their own feelings toward whatever it is in question. If the counter argument to whatever is under discussion makes them blue, it must be wrong, regardless of its factual accuracy.

This piece by a young writer named Mathew Sheffield is a good example of the new brand of millennial journalism we can expect. Sheffield turns up on mainstream conservative sites so I suspect he is being groomed to be the next big thing. His article features the abundant use of pseudo-data that is popular with millennials, but the distinguishing aspect is it is mostly a long treatise on how conservative media is not paying enough attention to people like Mathew Sheffield. After all, if Fox News is not catering to him, they may as well not exist.

On his twitter profile, you see the catch phrase popular with young educated people. “If you can’t defend your opinions, perhaps you need better ones.” Some formulation of that pops up on social media and internet forums and it is always uttered by a young person. They can’t imagine why someone would not be eager and willing to explain and defend their opinions to them. On twitter you often see old people respond with, “I’m not google. Do your own research.” The response to that is always some form of  “Your unwillingness to indulge me means you must be wrong.”

The thing is, this generation is just as smart and educated as previous generations. You could argue they are better educated. More young people have had exposure to college material than ever before and all of them graduate high school. I grew up with guys who dropped out at 16 and then went into the army when they turned 18. That’s unheard of today. The difference is that the millennials were trained to focus their curiosity inward, rather than outward. Instead of trying to understand the world, they focused all their time understanding themselves.

This very well may be the inevitable consequence to the post-scarcity world. We live in an age when poor people are fat and have gaming consoles and 60-inch flat screen televisions. For middle and upper middle-class young people, the risks in life are not physical in the form of hunger and violence. The risks in life are all emotional in the form of lost status and hurt feelings. Once again, it turns out that Huxley got the future more right than Orwell. In the post scarcity world, everyone is focused on self-actualization, because otherwise life has no purpose.

54 thoughts on “Millenial Solipsism

  1. I don’t get what your problem with Mathew Sheffield. You say he uses pseudo data but it comes from the Pew research center. Maybe it’s gamed but it didn’t come from a Chinese fortune cookie. He mentions no where “just listen to me”.

    I also don’t get all the attacks on Millennials. For reference I’m not a Millennial. I’m at the tail end of the Boomers. Look at what we’ve left these people. Large masses of the economy off shored. Massive crushing debt. Ridiculous wars started from buildings that just magically fall down. The schools suck because Boomers put in teachers that teach a bunch of crap. I don’t see where you people should get off on criticizing them. You in no small way created the reality they live in.

  2. I’m all about reasonable solutions.

    Just gas ’em all. #ItCouldWork

    (Yes that’s a joke.)

  3. “The thing is, this generation is just as smart and educated as previous generations”
    That’s what I’m worried about

  4. I’ve been hanging out with a rather exceptional bunch of milenials these past few years. But when I’m not in my rather unusual professional world, I’ve noted that most of my friends’ kids are even more fubar than the kids I grew up with. Though I suspect that had the types of meds these kids are on and the kinds of therapy they are subject to been more readily available and more socially acceptable, my peers would have been a lot more screwed up.

  5. The problem with solipsism is that you eventually wake up one day and realize that while you might exist, you do not matter. I think that’s where a lot of the frustrations the Millennials have emanate from…that day when they slowly start to realize that nobody gives a damn about them outside of some of their immediate family, one close friend (if they’re lucky, and make good choices), or their spouse (again, if they’re lucky, and make good choices). Their boss doesn’t give a rat at the end of the day. Nor does their teacher. Nor their gym buddies or personal trainer. Not the cute barista at Coffeebucks. If they’re having kids of their own, well, you’ll not find a collectively more self-centered group of people than children under the age of 15. And so they sit around the living room at Thanksgiving staring at their media devices having virtual conversations with people in the same frapping room with them.

    I have a family member who suffers from severe depression. His whole world revolves around…himself. If he wants something, he gets chummy. Otherwise, go away. Church? Religion of any kind? Pah! That’s for chumps. Has a kid, never sees her in person. Everybody has a theory about why he is the way he is, and why he suffers from the illness he suffers from. Although not technically a Millennial, he shares something in common with them: What happens when everything revolves around you, and you wake up one day and realize you’re all you’ve got? No God. No higher calling. Nothing to keep you in check. So, you tie yourself to the end of a rope, and you take the next logical step.

    Which, by the way, explains a lot of the appeal of Socialism among Millenials, once you realize the path they all realize they want or need to head down…

    • That’s a lot like my stepson, although he doesn’t have severe depression. Still expects his dad to give him stuff. Had a son while he was in high school. He hasn’t made any attempt to force the mom to give him visitation rights. (The mom stayed with his parents while she was pregnant, then cheated on him with a mutual friend. She married the friend, so he may have lucked out.) The big thing that irritates me about Millennials is their lack of gratitude. I’ve never seen anything like it. (And I hate to generalize about Millennials, but they generalize about Boomers all the time.)

      • We use that word a lot about my family member…lack of gratitude. His idea of “showing appreciation” for quite literally saving his life, and my wife and I helping him get back on his feet with a new job, new career, and helping him financially? Asking if he could come see Captain America 3 with us. He actually said it like that. It was unreal. It’s like they live on this completely different planet where friends and family are simply a means to an end.

  6. I notice our young people becoming softer, weaker, more naive, distracted, self absorbed and other less desirable traits that make them perfect prey for the less-evolved fast- growing hordes of Muslim and Russian and Chinese barbarians, To name a few. We are so screwed … I think Trump gets it, but I am not sure he can do much about it in the long term. Hillary will speed it all up.

  7. When it comes to philosophy the ironic reality is that, in the end, choices are required.

    In college, I rejected Solipsism for fear of being too lonely. I did, however, respect Descartes’s contributions to both mathematics and philosophy. In fact, Descarte’s “cogito ergo sum” made me question if we are more than individual, “skin-wrapped bubbles” in a Great Void.

    I found Berkeley’s Philonous to be a little too Gnostic for my taste prior to balancing it all out with a nice blend of of Hylas-grounded Empiricism.

    After college, I learned the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge can be easily obtained from a book. Wisdom comes with life experience. And, humility shows up when one understands the difference.

    Therein in lies the dilemma of the Millennials; as well as every “younger generation” since the dawn of time.

    Or, in my own case, from when I listened to Dad with a beer while watching Archie Bunker.

  8. In response to the question of employment, my simple solution has been to hire only military veterans. Their loyalty, work ethic, and devotion breathes new life into these old bones.
    I had intended to start a company to fill my retirement time, but found I’d adopted a family.

  9. This is what we used to expect:

    I can’t believe the delusional stuff my stepson says. He always has an opinion about subjects he knows nothing about. We were trying to work with the city to replace an aging mobile home. Stepson told us we should just sucede from the city! He was serious too.

    While we are placing blame, let’s not forget television. There was a day when even cartoons had some educational value (like classical music). Children’s programming is terrible.

    • I live in Bullitt County. I could pass that test now and probably when I was in the 8th grade too, but it would have been hard.

    • Nearly all of the programming is terrible.
      People sometimes ask me why I don’t watch TV much. I tell them it’s because most of the time I can *feel* the intelligence being sucked out.

  10. The most annoying trait is their certainty of knowledge & the way they will quickly correct adults that should be obviously respected, in such patronizing & dismissive tones, it makes you want to gig ’em in the throat.

  11. So essentially, you don’t like the data points he cites and you try to dismiss them by a wave of the hand.

    I found that Praxis blog post via a tweet from Radix. They said it was great. I agree. You need to learn to read things that offend you without whining.

        • That’s exactly what I was getting at. It is the base assumption that new or contrary information must be wrong and remains wrong until snowflake decides otherwise. That brings up another thing about millennials. Correction and contradiction are viewed as personal assaults. Try to explain to Dylan that he is incorrect and he is liable to fly into a tantrum. Everything is personal to the solipsistic.

          • The self-absorption and entitlement of the snowflakes is extraordinary but, like their opinions, is skin deep. Many would surrender to a force alien to themselves, and some are even looking forward to it. That is the appeal of “socialism”, and Islam. Force. Weak people are drawn to it.

            “Every generations forms a new nation” Elections cannot turn this around, what they will do is legitimize it.

  12. The West is post-scarcity except in the things that really matter. A sane, moral culture? A white country with high social trust and strong social bonds? The possibility of acquiring a pleasant, chaste, attractive wife–just how many “millennials” or younger do you think will succeed in that?

  13. “You could argue they are better educated.” Well, some may be but not most in my opinion. It constantly astounds me, in the circles I move, that when I talk to people about their children, they almost uniformly have “Straight A” students. Even going back a decade or so to my oldest, it seemed nigh impossible to meet someone who wasn’t a 4.0 student or Valedictorian, or graduating Cum Laude. From my generation that grew up with grading on the “curve,” just how in the world is that possible? A rhetorical. Given that regular test results show a dirth of abilities in the 3R’s, even post college, I would tend to disagree that millenials are better educated. It seems your business friends agree. Teachers are slanted, materials are corrupt, environments are corrosive and social media they live in is all about “feelings so it is not surprising.”

    As for Huxley and Orwell, in the West, they are currently running neck-n-neck, as I view it, with the useful idiots on the left and in Islamo-land being used to further the Orwellian furture a bit more. My bet is on Orwell unless the current tide of resistance can push back and hold off TPTB. From the FED, to the Surveillance State, to Federal Government overreach and reduction of individual freedoms, “feelings” pale in comparison.

    • “You could argue they are better educated.” – not in America they aren’t! European kids beat the Americans across the board in all subjects, especially math and language*. So this is really an American problem, not a European one. Any kid in American can get into college, and if they are a minority, it’s even easier. American’s have been dumbing down their education system for years, and it has nothing to do with kids playing video games or spending time on social media.

      Until parents accept the fact that not every child is capable of university level work, you will continue to graduate students who come away with degrees that have little or no value. It’s not to say American kids aren’t smart, they are simply not challenged nor held to higher standards. If you keep lowering the bar, what do you expect? If you encouraged them half as much in engineering or science and technology as much as you do in playing football or baseball, it might be to their long term benefit.

      Let’s look at some of the good things millennials have given us. Love it or hate it, Facebook and GoPro are millennial inventions. Millennials like Albert Manero at Limbitless Solutions, are coming out with artificial limbs for children and injured veterans. Others are developing interesting designs in camping and outdoor gear, they’re using 3D printing technology and developing new materials for electric bikes and alternative concepts for personal transportation – and that’s not even considering the software side of things they’ve come up with.

      They don’t all need college degrees. What they need are apprenticeship and mentor programs that focus on what they’re interested in, what they’re good at, and not what we think they should be. They are resistant to traditional corporate culture and traditional values such as big cars, big homes and big everything else – and that’s a good thing in my eyes.

      Every generation has it’s out-steppers, and yes, life is easier because of previous generations. That’s just how it works. But instead of tossing them in day care centers and then criticizing them because they end their sentences with a preposition, we should be engaging with them in what they are interested in doing and encouraging them because as you said, in a few years, they’ll be taking care of us.


      • Karl, you’ve hit one of the big nails, “expectations.” Managing expectations means setting high standards, measuring against them, and being honest with people and holding to those expectations or standards. That means telling them where their strengths and weaknesses lie so they can work on needed areas. The current mode of “Everyone is a Winner” just is not working. You are right. While everyone should desire to be well educated and have the opportunity to do so, not everyone is cut out for higher ed. However, the legacy of people like pedophile Arne Duncan and the rest of the feckless Dept. of Education have done their damage that will be difficult to undo. And Hillary, if she wins, will be set on continuing the same.

        On the other hand, I have to take you to task for your obvious “elitist” attitude with regards to Europeans. Maybe they are “better” educated but the “results” are not so much better than they are here in the US, at least to my informed opinion. The same globalization, the same social welfare, the same corruption games and banking scandals are bringing down all European countries even sooner than the US. So spare me, please, any hint that Europeans are “better” educated than Americans.

        BTW, I do agree that in any population, millenials included, there will be those outliers who shine and make outstanding inventions and contributions to science, medicine, technology, business, etc. But as a whole, eh, not so much. I don’t blame them for the circumstances they find themselves in, it is more that they choose to do nothing about it other than rant about it on FaceMan and Twatter than anything constructive for themselves. Vote with your wallet. Vote with your feet. Do something. Don’t just whine.

        • @ LetsPlay – There is nothing elitist about the pew study results. It’s empirical fact. Point. Where I would say Americans have the advantage is opportunity and entrepreneurism. Where Europeans typically remain cautious and entrenched, Americans have that “just do it” attitude and I think this is a wonderful expression of the individual. I completely agree with you this is something we Europeans should embrace more.

          But I must take you to task. Stop blaming the Department of Education for your kids failures. That’s back to the parents responsibility to say “No, you’re not going to teach my kid this nonsense!” How many parents actually attend school review boards or even bother to attend parent teach conferences and then do something? No, they take the easy way out and do nothing. Not with their kids, not with the teachers and not with the government they elect. Sure, they’ll go to the soccer game because it’s easy. But if Billy can’t figure out a math problem, then just give him a gold star for getting his name right so he feels good about himself. Nonsense. Utter nonsense!

          Back to the millenials, unlike you and I, we have it easier because of what our fathers and grandfathers did before. Today, millenials can’t say that. The globalization, welfare state, corruption and banking scandals you mention were not their fault. These were done by our generation. We have given them a world of dept, insecurity and imposed immigration of third-worlders that puts them, their children and their future at risk.

          Let us be fair. Millenials were raised in day-care centers because our generation wasn’t interested in them. We were interested in our careers, our big houses and our big cars and trying to figure out how we were going to pay for it all. We put video games in their hands and sat them in front of the television because we were to busy, too self absorbed in our own lives. We said it was okay to get into university without being able to to basic reading or math. We created the college debt system for them. And now, somehow thezman is complaining about how they turned out?

          Millenials have every right to be upset with us. And they should be furious. And why should they listen to us? We never listened to them! We made this world what is, not them, and now they have to sort it out. We need to take responsibility for the financial ruin we created, the trillion of dollars in debt we have put on their backs, and the war in the Middle East we started that they have to go die for because we won’t do the right thing to put a stop to this madness.

          • Karl, there is much we can both agree on and disagree on. It is a complex situation that got us to where we are and there is no simple solution like “parent’s need to be more involved.”

            It is not a matter of seeking the big house, car, and all the stuff. Careers yes. I’ve seen conspicuous consumption at it’s extreme and what I had was nothing close to that even though I would tell my kids to appreciate what they did have because they were living as one of the top 5-10% in the world. Those “things” are what I went to school for and allowed me to earn at a level to afford to live in a nice neighborhood with good schools, low crime and nice people. While I did my best to “participate” in school things and politics, local and otherwise, work and family were a full time job. And with work including travel, the job usually got more than it’s fair share. Add a working wife with a career of her own and well, it was was we call the Rat Race.

            We do what we can. However, it is also a fact that there are nefarious forces at work against parents that conspire to undo what you might try to teach your kids. They are working to own the minds of our kids. One simply cannot isolate your children from all the ideas and forces hitting them for hours on end day after day, that overwhelm the effect that parents can have with their limited time. I have fought this battle myself and maybe I feel defeated because I have seen the results first hand. Yes, there is plenty of blame for me to accept. However, it is not irresponsible of me to hold our social institutions responsible for their significant failures, or actually their success at achieving what they have done to date. How does a parent fight the teachers unions, higher education, and financial system (school loans that you mention), the liberal media, Hollywood, etc. when one needs to get some sleep to prepare for the next days challenges at work, the grinder that relishes the “do more with less” mantra as corporations squeeze every damn cent of profitability out of their exempt employees.

            America has done some great things but admittedly that has come at a cost and sacrifice. But what I am arguing is that despite Europe’s/Germany’s higher standards for College/University, your society, economy, overall well-being and quality of life is not necessarily better than what we have in America. Maybe it is a matter of perspective but from what I see on the news, your yuute, the millennials seem to display very much the same traits as ours. I guess while those productive in society are busy, those not so in a commercial sense, are busy with their mischievous social and political aims undermining the infrastructure like termites to a foundation.

          • I would argue that parents are the foundation of a child’s life and parents must be accountable for their health, safety and well being. Once we turn them over to the state, all bets are off. Integration of East Germany has been difficult for many reasons, one of them being the state taking control of the children at an early age and being able to feed them the propaganda of the Socialst state.

            But you are correct – it’s complex issue without a simple fix. So to that point we agree.

          • What do you mean “we”? I’m not a “we” and I raised my children (dtr 40, son 35) differently from what is described above. I’m a USA-EU dual national and my children were educated in both, but most of all by me to the greatest extent possible. I didn’t create any financial ruin, put no debt on them and didn’t send them off to war. I prefer to think individually rather than collectively and I suspect that’s the most important lesson I taught my children.

      • Karl, in all fairness, once you adjust for…how shall we put this pleasantly?…non-white populations, American kids do at least as well as their European counterparts. If you had to attend public schools with African American kids, you’d know that they have an actual anti-intellectualism culture. I’ll never forget report-card day, when they used to run hooting in the hallways, bragging about who received more F grades.

        • @ Jak Black – The requirements for college entrance for Americans and Germans is not the same. We also differentiate between college and university, and the levels of education is also different; university being the higher institution. Where you have the SAT or ACT, which is all multiple choice, we have the Abiture which includes a written paper and several oral exams and covers language, foreign language, math, science, history, etc. Here’s a wiki link so you can see the higher level of knowledge it requires, especially for university entrance.

          • Yes, the education system equates education with language development, which honestly is not the same thing. Lots of very intelligent people do not do well on language based material because it is not their gift. Germany also tracks very early and if you’re out of the intellectual track, you’re out.

            However, if you’ve never taken the ACT or SAT (or any important multiple choice exam), I will give it’s defense that it is possible to design very difficult multiple choice questions that demonstrate all types of knowledge. Further, those tests are necessarily more objective than an oral exam.

            So cultural differences, really. America does receive some benefit from a looser educational track and Germany does have some advantages in more rigorous one.

          • America’s education system is geared to Girrrrl Power! Math and science have been greatly diminished.

          • I have two grandsons and two granddaughters and experience makes me completely agree with that.

            The education system believes that boys are nothing but defective girls and tries to fix the defects.

          • I don’t have kids yet, but just all I’ve read about that makes me livid as if I did, and they were the victims of such “education”.

            Sick stupid misandrist bullshit.

          • Karl Horst, has the Turkish influx in Germany affected this? In my limited experience, European students are better prepared, and as you say, there’s an acknowledgement that not all students are capable of university work. That used to be the case in the US, too, until we decided that we must never ever acknowledge the races’ different capabilities. Is the German educational system changing to pretend with the Turks, as well? There are lots of other problems with the American educational system — I can go on all day — but that’s the main one.

          • @ Severian – Turks have the lowest scores and highest drop out rates of all ‘foreign’ students in Germany. Many, including those who were born and raised here, fail learn to read and write German at the secondary level. Turks in Germany are the least likely group to achieve a secondary school certification and over two thirds of the second generation Turkish students have either the lowest or no secondary school diploma.

            While there has been some public discussion to follow the American trend of “dumbing down” our schools in order to increase the graduation rates, at this point the curriculum and Abiture requirements have not changed.

          • @Karl Horst, thanks for the info. I always find your perspective interesting, and it’s really useful to have a view from the ground in Europe.

          • @ Severian – Very welcome. One other point I wanted to mention is based on my own interaction with millenians (obviously not American). There seems to be an underlying resentment towards how they were raised. Not that they didn’t get everything they wanted, but what they really wanted was someone (their parents) to pay attention to them.

            That is why I keep mentioning day-care and two working parents as a big problem. These kids are desperate for the attention of adults, especially those who will just take a few minutes to listen to them. We have few interns in our office and they seem very interested in us old folks and our idea about life and our observations when we include them in our coffee chats. These “kids” know they don’t have the answers – but many have been raised without someone to ask the right questions. So they turn to each other and the results are exactly what we see today.

        • That’s something no one dares mention, but it is a fact that holds up across the country. Some states do a better than others, even adjusting for race and sex, but everything evens out for the most part once you correct for biology.

      • What other recourse do we have, but to “dumb down the education system?” If we actually graded students, pass or fail, based solely on a child’s abilities, how would we explain the vast outcome differences,that would predictably show a huge gulf between the races? I’m trying, (and failing miserably), to envision, & to what degree, the number of homicides that would occur if a parent of a minority child was enlightened in regards to the Bell Curve. I can see weeks’ long rioting and burnings reminiscent of Sherman’s Atlanta.

      • I agree with you partially. Schools are so dumbed down,as are colleges. It’s the teachers’ unions that fight against charter schools and prevent incompetent teachers from being fired.

        But I disagree that we need more focus on STEM. That’s all they do! Colleges might require a single English or history class. We know how to turn out educated people. We used to do it. We allow schools to experiment with unproven methods.

        • Correction, we “used” to know how to turn out educated people. Now the Fed’s via the Dept. of Education/Propaganda control most of the methods, content and the purse strings. Can you say “Common CORE?”

      • The American systems (we don’t have one particular system) can pick up people who would be missed in the cookie cutter bullshit system of Germany. My father was dyslexic, was graduated out of high school simply because he attended, taught himself to read with a Bible and a dictionary, went to night school, became an EEG technician, and a pediatric neurologist suggested he apply to med school. He was accepted without a college degree.
        I was in the bottom half of my high school class because I never studied, but had the highest SAT score in my class. Got into college on that alone, double major in biology and chemistry. Med school. Surgical subspecialist.
        The European systems pigeonhole people and create a lot of unnecessary stress and resentment.
        Our systems result in Nobel laureates. How many has Germany had lately?

      • Karl, the Pew research article you reference is flawed in the sense that it only reports averages and does not unpack the data–as with any poll you need to look carefully at the cross-tabs. Americans of European ancestry (aka whites) score on par with their European counterparts. Americans of Asian ancestry score on par with their Asian counterparts and slightly higher than Europeans.

        Americans of African ancestry score on par with their African counterparts and drastically below Europeans. Similarly, Americans of Hispanic ancestry score on par with their Hispanic counterparts and drastically below Europeans.

        Aggregate test scores for Americans have fallen due to the changing demographics of the American population. The same will happen in Europe as demographic change sweeps across the continent.

    • Came here to make a similar argument. Z, since you’re a fan of Russel Kirk, I suggest you read some of his voluminous writing on the fall of educational standards. Perhaps kids have spent more time in classrooms since the 50s, but received more education? Feh.

  14. Brave New World seems ascendant for now, but we’re never far from the sort of events that set us up for 1984. Good times go on until they don’t and we’ve got a lot of proto-Orwellian social and political infrastructure ready to hand for someone to exploit should the opportunity arise.

    • I would wager that that road to Brave New World runs through 1984. Remember that in BNW, their society experienced the “Nine Years War”, and many millions of dead, chem/bio weapons, massive horrors, which in turn produced that society. They were all desperate to avoid that sort of thing again, and so they organized themselves in a way to secure “happiness” for the largest number of people possible.

      “Community, Identity, Stability.” That’s their motto.

      1984 takes place in the midst of a perpetual global war.

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