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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, fife'n'drum version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! That was the fife'n'drum version of one of Haydn's Derbyshire Marches and this is your skeptically genial host John Derbyshire with some titbits from the news wires.
This week marked a melancholy national anniversary for us Americans. I shall get to that in due course. First, though, some news headlines.
02 — You can take the boy out of the Caucasus, but … Wednesday this week we got a verdict in the trial of the surviving Boston Marathon bomber, 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Tsarnaev was found guilty on all 30 counts. Sentencing is a separate process to be gone through next week. This was a federal prosecution, so Tsarnaev is up for the death penalty. Personally, for what he did, I hope he gets it.
The story of the Boston bombers, Dzhokhar and his older brother Tamurlan (who was killed in a shoot-out with cops), illuminates several large cultural and political themes. On the cultural side, for example, there's the issue of mountain people versus lowlanders.
The Tsarnaevs are ethnic Chechens, a Muslim people from the Caucasus mountains in west-central Asia. Chechens of course display the kind of variation in type that any human population shows — more on that in just a moment — but Chechen culture emphasizes what mountain cultures tend to emphasize: courage, masculinity, honor, family pride, hostility to the people in the next valley, vendetta, and tolerance of — if not the actual practice of — banditry.
You catch some flavor of Chechen life from the following two consecutive sentences in a Washington Post article from a couple of years ago about next-door Dagestan, quote:
Police gun down [Islamic] fundamentalists they say have turned militant. Police are methodically blown up with makeshift bombs.
End quote. None of this should be strange to Americans or Brits. The Scotch-Irish of the mountainous back country were the wild men of colonial America. They and their descendants in flatter places like Texas still today provide a disproportionate number of our warriors. For Brits, the highland Scots make the point; or did, until the Battle of Culloden and the Clearances broke the back of their culture, sending many of them off to, yes, the colonial back country of North America.
This mountain-lowland contrast is one of the great binaries of human social history, like city-country and farmer-herdsman. The mountain life can look very romantic from a distance, if you put a little lipstick and rouge on it — I refer you to the novels of Sir Walter Scott, and a certain strain of 19th-century Russian literature — so there's obviously some deep human appeal there; but it's at odds with the notion of an orderly, civilized life with low levels of interpersonal violence.
Which is a way of saying it's at odds with modernity. For people like the Tsarnaev family, immigrants from a culture like that into the present-day U.S.A., modernity is the challenge. Some of them surmount the challenge. Dzhokhar's uncle Ruslan, his father's brother, did so very successfully, becoming a wealthy lawyer … though I shall have more to say about Uncle Ruslan in the next segment. Dzhokhar's dad Anzor, however, didn't do so well.
Dzhokhar's parents came here in 2002, and enjoyed a modest working-class lifestyle for a few years. Then, in the late 2000s, the father's business failed, the mother was caught shoplifting, and they fell back on welfare handouts. Tamerlan, the older brother, was at this point in his early 20s; Dzhokhar was late teens.
The psychological effects were dire, perhaps magnified by the contrast with successful Uncle Ruslan. The father got depressed, left his wife, and returned to the home of his ancestors in the Caucasus. The mother got religion, which is to say fundamentalist Islam. So did Tamerlan, the older brother.
Dzhokhar seemed to be on an American middle-class track. He went to college in 2011 with the idea of becoming a dentist. He was sociable and popular; he seemed like a normal career-minded 19-year-old materialist who drank beer and smoked weed. The Islamic religiosity of his mother and older brother somehow infected him, though. By the time of the bombing two years ago, he'd lost interest in normal American life and followed his brother down the dark road, back to the atavistic rivalries, treacheries, and murderous loyalties of their mountain ancestors.
I'm just trying to sketch some of the big social and historical issues in play there. What does the story of the Tsarnaevs have to tell us about our nation's policies? Next segment.
03 — The fate of the failed immigrant. One consequence of the Tsarnaev case should have been to prompt some public soul-searching among our politicians and commentators on the topics of immigration and refugee resettlement, starting from the question: What were these people doing in our country?
That soul-searching didn't happen. In our current public dogmas, immigration is an unqualified good, and refugee resettlement is even gooder. Soul-searching about our policies on these things is considered to be in very bad taste. How could anyone be so unkind, so hate-filled, as to say anything at all negative about huddled masses yearning to breathe free?
Well, I dare, so here it comes.
By way of preface: I'm an immigrant from Britain, my wife's an immigrant from China, and a high proportion of our friends and acquaintances are immigrants, including a Filipino, a West Indian, a Christian Arab from Lebanon, a Brazilian, and several Russians. I've been mingling with immigrants in the U.S.A. for forty years. Heck, I've written a novel about them. I think I can pronounce with fair confidence on issues to do with immigration.
There's this, for example. Life for first-generation immigrants is competitive. There's great psychic pressure to do as well as, or better than, some other immigrant: your brother, your old classmate, that guy from your old village. Immigrants feel career and social failure very keenly. Nobody likes failure, of course: but with immigrants there's the extra stigma of having made that big gamble, coming to America, and lost.
Before the welfare state came up in the middle of the last century, failed immigrants most often just went home. In the Great Wave of immigrants from 1880 to 1920, around one in eight of immigrants went back to their home countries at last. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's father was in this tradition; his wife later followed him. That was after some years on welfare, though; support that softened the hardship of failure, while at the same time keeping it a daily presence in front of their eyes.
So there's a policy point: How do we deal with failed immigrants? They used to deal with themselves by de-immigrating, returning home. Not many now do that; and those like the Tsarnaevs who do, spend time on welfare first. How about we restrict welfare to American-born citizens, with perhaps some sensible exceptions like disabled veterans?
And then there is the issue of refugees and political asylum. Tsarnaev Senior was granted political asylum in 2002. His own parents had been deported 2,000 miles east, from the Caucasus to Soviet Kyrgyzstan, by Stalin in the 1940s, along with thousands of other Chechens; so Tsarnaev Senior grew up in a Chechen minority community among the Kyrgyz.
His asylum claim was apparently based on this: that after the fall of the Soviet Union and the independence of Kyrgyzstan, he and other Chechens were persecuted by the local Kyrgyz majority. In fact there is no evidence of such persecution; and even if there were such evidence, since the end of the U.S.S.R. there was nothing to stop Papa Tsarnaev from returning to the Caucasus — which he eventually did anyway!
The case for admitting Papa Tsarnaev to the U.S.A. as a refugee looks mighty thin to me.
None of that will be very surprising to regular readers of Ann Corcoran's Refugee Resettlement Watch blog. As Ann chronicles daily, the whole refugee and asylum business — and yes, it's a business, with refugee resettlement contractors raking in cartloads of taxpayer dollars — the whole business is addled with fraud and corruption, and driven by connections. Refugees who end up here are not often the poorest of the poor; mostly they are the best-connected of the connected.
What connections did Tsarnaev Senior have? Well, there was his brother, that successful lawyer Ruslan. Uncle Ruslan's success was not in small-town lawyering, or pro bono good legal works, helping little old ladies who'd been bilked out of their life savings. No: In the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union had just collapsed, Uncle Ruslan was a consultant for USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development, in the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan.
Translation: Uncle Ruslan was a player in the looting and plundering of ex-Soviet wealth by oligarchs, Central Asian division. For just a hint of how murky this gets — I have no time to get into the weeds on this, but you can read it up on the internet — for just a hint, note that USAID is well-known to be a common front for CIA activities, and that Uncle Ruslan was until 2004 married to Samantha Fuller, daughter of Graham Fuller, a senior CIA official.
As I said, this gets murky real fast. Once you start turning over these stones, all sorts of things crawl out. The main point here is that in this pit of slime rest the foundations of our refugee and asylum policy, a major component of our immigration policy; and that American politicians and elites are united in the belief that it is bad manners to talk about this.
As I began by saying, I hope Dzhokhar Tsarnaev gets the needle for what he did. I'd feel more satisfaction in justice having been administered, though, if I could believe this whole ghastly story caused a few cracks to open up in the great edifice of sentimentality, fantasy, lies, delusion, corruption, cupidity, and cowardice that is U.S. immigration policy.
04 — Paradoxes of nationalism. I'm a nationalist: which is to say, I believe in the idea of a nation as the political expression of a particular people, of mostly-common broad ancestry, speaking a common language and cleaving to a common culture within well-defended borders.
Here's every nationalist's favorite quote, and that includes those of us who aren't religious. It's from Alexander Solzhenitsyn, quote:
The disappearance of nations would impoverish us no less than if all people were made alike, with one character, one face. Nations are the wealth of mankind, they are its generalized personalities: the smallest of them has its own particular colors, and embodies a particular facet of God's design.
Nationalism is widely misunderstood. It is not, for example, opposed to diversity. To the contrary, it's a friend of diversity. Nationalists want all the diverse peoples of the world to be secure in their own cultures and traditions, each in a sovereign nation of its own.
Personally I even favor a measured small quantity of diversity within nations, on the salt-in-the-stew pinciple: a smidgeon of foreign admixture adds spice, interest, and genetic variation. That's how you salt your stew.
Nor is nationalism racist in the pejorative sense, as an expression of hostility or superiority by one race towards another. As my friend Jared Taylor says: I love my children much more than I love your children, just because they are mine. I don't hate your children, though, or believe they're inferior.
That clause about mostly-common broad ancestry does mean that nationalism is racist in a very general way; but it implies no hostility to anyone, nor any notions of superiority, just a fondness for one's own way of life, and the belief — which seems common sense to me — that if one's ancestors had been some different people, one's way of life would be different.
All that is by way of introducing some paradoxes. I love a paradox, and nationalism is full of them.
Here's a paradox, for example. One of the most strongly nationalist nations in the world is Israel. The Jewish supermajority of Israel feels a powerful identification with each other and with their land, with their culture and traditions and with their common ancestry. That last belief, the one about common ancestry, actually comes with a sheaf of qualifications: but Israeli Jews believe in it anyway, and as Walker Connor pointed out in his book Ethnonationalism, that's what matters.
The paradox is that the strongest body of outside support for Israel comes from American Jews, most of whom are liberals who think "nationalism" is a dirty word. If you ask them why, they say that it's the association with National Socialism and the Holocaust; which would be fair enough, except that the globalist, anti-nationalist thread among American Jews goes back way before 1933, at least as far back as the battles for immigration restriction in the early 20th century.
Another one of the paradoxes of nationalism is on display in the current general election campaign in Britain. The Brits will be voting for a new government on May 7th, and the campaign's been heating up.
British elections are not any longer two-party affairs, as they were for most of the 20th century. When I was a kid in England in the 1950s it was reds against blues. Red was the Labour Party; blue was the Tories. Nobody in my neck of the English woods owned a car, so better-off Party activists who did own cars would be conscripted to ferry sympathetic voters to and from the polling station. I and my coevals used to hang on our front gate watching the cars bustling up and down the street, cheering the ones displaying the color our parents favored — red, in my case — and booing the others.
British politics nowadays is way more messy. At the first — and so far as is currently advertised, perhaps the only — pre-election debate April 2nd, seven parties were represented, each with one of those stand-up podiums … "podia" whatever … that campaign consultants tell them not to clutch too tightly.
The seven were: Labour, Tory, Liberal Democrats, Scottish Nationalists, Welsh Nationalists, Greens, and UKIP. Since the betting is that none of them will get enough votes in May to form a majority in Parliament, there'll be some horse-trading and coalition-forming.
So the political talk over there is all about who's likely to form a coalition with whom. Thence comes the paradox.
Focus again on the idea of nationalism. On the usual left-right axis, nationalism belongs over on the far right, doesn't it? When you read in the newspapers about a nationalist party, like the Front National in France, the name usually comes prefixed with "far-right," right?
So you'd expect that the Scottish Nationalists and the Welsh Nationalists would be smiling sweetly at David Cameron, leader of the Tory Party, in anticipation of him inviting them into a right-wing coalition, right?
Wrong! You could hardly be wronger. Both the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists are parties of the far left. The entire extent of their nationalism is resentment of England. Far from being nationalist in the sense I defined above, they are enthusiastically globalist, trans-nationalist. If Scotland and Wales get independence from England, their first act will be to reaffirm their membership of the European Union; their second will be to apply for seats at the U.N.
These so-called nationalists favor mass immigration and multiculturalism and any organization that's big and international. Their economic policies are dirigiste in a definitely "continental" style, totally at odds with the Anglo-Saxon tradition (what's left of it) of limited government and personal liberty.
There you are: the paradoxes of nationalism. Not for the first time, I find myself thinking that our entire political vocabulary needs a total overhaul. The word "nationalism" would be an excellent place to start.
05 — Rand Paul rising. There are pros and cons of parliamentary government versus the congressional-presidential sort. I'm not going to argue either case here, and personally I'm happy with the U.S. system and our Constitution. I just wish Congress would do a better job of upholding the Constitution, that's all.
The parliamentary system has some pros, though, and I'll point up one of them here. It's better in that there is way less electioneering.
In Britain nobody bothers much about an election until a few weeks beforehand. That's a pro, far as I'm concerned. In the States we're a year and a half away from the next Presidential election, and the newspapers are full of the candidates, speculations about possible candidates, who supports whom, and a lot of other tiresome stuff I'd rather not bother about until September next year.
Here's the latest candidate to declare: Rand Paul, a Republican. I met Rand Paul in person back in my National Review days, and saw him address the Bartley Dinner in D.C. a few weeks ago. Would he make a good President? What are his chances of being the GOP nominee? If he is the nominee, would I vote for him in the general?
I'll take those questions in turn. On whether he'd make a good President, I have grave doubts. I'm not a one-issue voter, but I do think the National Question is of supreme importance for the country my children and grandchildren will live in; and on the National Question, Paul is hopeless.
In fact, he's worse than hopeless: He's soft and malleable — practically liquid, in fact, assuming the shape of whichever vessel he happens to find himself in. His positions on the National Question illustrate this.
When I interrogated Paul about immigration four years ago I found him merely clueless. He did subsequently make some critical remarks about the refugee rackets, after two Iraqi refugees in his own state of Kentucky were arrested for gun-running to al Qaeda. Both are now serving long prison sentences. Oh good, I thought when I heard those critical remarks, he's getting a clue.
In November 2012 Paul endorsed amnesty for illegals but suggested it be linked to a moratorium on legal immigration, a scheme that is at least worth talking about, and a refreshing departure from the boilerplate blather we get from most politicians on immigration. Perhaps he really was getting a clue.
But then, forward to February 2013, when Paul gave the Tea Party rebuttal to Obama's State of the Union speech. Quote:
We are the party that embraces hard work and ingenuity, therefore we must be the party that embraces the immigrant who wants to come to America for a better future … We must be the party who sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities. We must be the party that says, "If you want to work, if you want to become an American, we welcome you."
End quote. Taking the world at large, that would mean welcoming several hundred million, perhaps a couple of billion people to America. Did Paul really think that a good idea?
After the Boston Marathon bombing a few weeks later, Paul veered back towards good sense. He sent an open letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying, among other things, quote from the letter:
Why did the current system allow two individuals to immigrate to the United States from the Chechen Republic in Russia, an area known as a hotbed of Islamic extremism, who then committed acts of terrorism?
That didn't last, though. By this point the GOP business donors and their shills in the upper levels of the party, people like Sheldon Adelson and Grover Norquist, had their claws well and truly imbedded in Paul's flesh.
By February last year he had lurched back to the donorist position, calling for the GOP to be more "welcoming" and snuggling up with Jeb Bush. By year's end the transformation was complete: Rand Paul loved Big Brother. In January this year he had himself photographed hugging Al Sharpton.
Most recently he's started to sound like Al Sharpton. Sample from his speech this week announcing his candidacy for the presidential nomination, quote:
I see an America where criminal justice is applied equally and any law that disproportionately incarcerates people of color is repealed.
As several people hastened to point out, that would mean repealing all our laws on violent crime, including those against murder, rape, robbery, and assault. Blacks are incarcerated disproportionately for these crimes because they commit them disproportionately: the Justice Department's own statistics make this indisputably plain.
So I was deluding myself in thinking Paul had a clue. On the National Question he has no clue, and never really had. His convictions are light as a feather, wafted by the race hustlers and cheap-labor business lobbies in whichever direction they want him to go.
That's not the stuff of a good President. To exercise national leadership, you need firm, unwavering convictions on a few core matters; and nothing is more core than issues of national identity and sovereignty. So no, Rand Paul would not be a good President.
What were my other questions? Oh yeah: What are his chances of being the GOP nominee? And: If he is the nominee, would I vote for him in the general?
That last one's easy: No, I would not vote for him if he were the GOP candidate. He's clueless on an important issue, and plainly has a weak character.
So what are his chances of being the Republican nominee? I hate to say it, but I think his chances are not bad. He's young and new-ish, with quite a winning manner. He speaks in a way that's quite persuasive, if you can put out of your mind the fact that six months previously he was saying the opposite thing, which the electorate mostly can.
And he's not any of the other guys, all of whom have defects of their own in presenting themselves to the American public.
No, I can't see voting for Rand Paul. He's got a fair chance of being the GOP nominee, though — possibly as fair as 50-50, I'd guess. And if he is the November 2016 candidate; and if, as I would also guess, by that time white Americans feel they have sufficiently purged their racial guilt with eight years of Obama that they're willing to vote for a white Protestant male; he could conceivably get elected President.
I'm not thrilled at the prospect, but we could do worse. For all his faults, Rand Paul did not sit calmly in a church pew for 20 years listening to a crazy black preacher ranting about the wickedness of white people.
06 — Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. Thursday this week marked the 150th anniversary of Robert E. Lee's surrender to Ulysses S. Grant on Palm Sunday, 1865. The surrender took place in the parlor of Wilmer McClean's house in the tiny hamlet of Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, by the Appomattox River. It effectively ended the American Civil War, although the news of course took some while to percolate out to distant units.
Both commanders behaved with grace and professionalism at the surrender. I find it very moving to read about. To try to convey that to listeners, I am just going to give you a short reading from Shelby Foote's narrative of the war.
The following passage describes events immediately after the necessary documents had been signed and sealed. Dramatis personae here, aside from Lee and Grant, are Lt. Col. Charles Marshall, Lee's military secretary, Sgt. George Tucker, Lee's orderly, and Traveller, Lee's horse.
It was close to 4 o'clock by now, and all that protocol required had been performed. After nearly three hours in the McLean parlor — half of one spent waiting and the rest in what could scarcely be called negotiation, since his adversary had freely given all he asked and more than he had hoped for: including immunity, down the years, from prosecution on any charge whatever in connection with the war — Lee was free to go. He rose, shook hands with Grant again, bowed to the others, and passed from the room, followed by Marshall. Out on the porch, several blue-clad officers came to attention and saluted as he emerged. He put on his hat to return their salute, then crossed to the head of the steps leading down to the yard. There he drew on his gauntlets, distractedly striking the fist of one hand three times into the palm of the other as he looked out across the valley to where the men of his army were waiting to learn that they had been surrendered. "Orderly! Orderly!" he called hoarsely, not seeing Tucker close by with Traveller, whose bit had been slipped to let him graze. "Here, General, here," Tucker replied, and Lee came down the steps to stand by the horse's head while he was being bridled. A cavalry major, watching from the porch, noted that "as the orderly was buckling the throat latch, the general reached up and drew the forelock out from under the brow band, parted and smoothed it, and then gently patted the gray charger's forehead in an absent-minded way, as one who loves horses, but whose thoughts are far away, might unwittingly do." Mounted, Lee waited for Marshall and Tucker, then started at a walk across the yard. Grant had come out of the house and down the steps by then, also on his way to the gate where his own horse was tethered. Stopping, he removed his hat in salute, as did the staff men with him. Lee raised his own hat briefly in return, and passed out through the gate and up the road. Presently, northward beyond the dwindled, tree-lined Appomattox, listeners on the porch heard cheers, and then a poignant silence.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Just to continue the military theme for a minute or two: We are approaching January 2016, the date by which, as per a ukase from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, all military combat roles have to be open to women.
This is one of the crazier consequences of the modern passion to pretend that everything is equal to everything else. The kind of physical and mental abilities required for strenuous combat are differently distributed among males and among females. There is of course much overlap, and there are women who can do things the average guy can't. However, as is always true with overlapping bell curves, you get a huge magnifying effect at the far right tail of the distribution, where extremes are called for.
Out in that far tail of the distribution, men who can meet the standard outnumber women by large multiples. For example, no woman has yet passed the Marine Corps' officer infantry course.
The solution that naturally occurs to bureaucrats is to lower standards for elite military units. This week we learned of some surveys conducted among Special Ops forces by Associated Press and the Rand Corporation. There is widespread concern in these units that lowering standards is exactly what the Pentagon has in mind.
Cultural concerns also showed up in the surveys. If you integrate women into those leading-edge units, you will have the occasional woman in a unit otherwise all men. It's hard to think of anything more destructive of unit cohesion.
That, to my mind, is the killer argument against co-ed combat units. This is a really really bad idea.
Item: Some news on the Miss BumBum front … or back, whatever. No, no it's the front: the front of last year's winner, Senhorita Indianara Carvalho.
By way of celebrating Easter, Senhorita Carvalho had hired an artist to spray-paint all down her naked front, from clavicles to groin, an image of that person an old Catholic girlfriend of mine used to refer to as the BVM, which is to say the Blessed Virgin Mary. On Good Friday Senhorita Carvalho posted an image of her naked self, thus adorned, on her Instagram account.
This little stunt was not well-received by the runner-up in last year's competition, Senhorita Claudia Alende. Senhorita Alende vented her feelings to the London Daily Mail, giving it as her opinion that to paint the BVM on one's naked body, especially on Good Friday, quote, "shows a breathtaking lack of respect and judgement," end quote.
It's hard to disagree. And if you can't find "respect and judgement" in the Miss BumBum pageant, where can you find it? We live in a world of disintegrating standards.
Senhorita Alende unbosomed herself of the further opinion that, quote: "I've always known that the woman is an attention-seeking slut, and now she's revealing to everyone else who she truly is," end quote.
That's a bit strong. I mean, to suggest that a person who enters herself in a national booty competition is an attention-seeker, well …
Meanwhile, I can't help wondering if there isn't some show business impresario somewhere in Brazil thinking to himself that he could make a great deal of money in a very short time by staging a mud-wrestling match on PayTV between Senhoritas Carvalho and Alende. I would not pay to see that myself, of course, but I know people that would.
Item: Finally, just one more from the nations to our south. Townspeople in San Jose de Balcare in eastern Argentina noticed an unpleasant smell emanating from the house of shepherd Jose Alberto. Upon investigating, they found the rotting corpse of Señor Alberto lying in bed next to a scarecrow.
The scarecrow was constructed in the traditional way, old clothes stuffed with straw, but sported a blonde wig and lipstick. Apparently the shepherd, described in the news reports as a lonely man of 58, had been engaged in sexual congress with the scarecrow — making hay, as it were, with his straw playmate.
A spokesman for the local prosecutor's office said, quote: "We are now waiting the results of an autopsy," end quote. He didn't specify which of the partners will be autopsied. If it's the scarecrow I can save them some trouble right away by telling them that it doesn't have a brain. [Clip: "If I only had a brain."]
08 — Signoff. That's it for this week, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening.
I just need some music to see us out. Since I made commentary on the upcoming British election back there, how about something British?
Alas, the country of my birth has excelled in many spheres, but not really in music. The Brits have tended to leave that to the Germans and Italians while they busied themselves with writing poetry and plays. The only first rank composer with any claim to Britishness was George Frederick Handel, who is buried in Westminster Abbey — which makes his a pretty impressive claim. He was, however, born in Germany.
[Added later: I feel a little remorse at having left out Purcell, who I think might have attained the first rank if he'd lived longer. Dido's lament is surely in every opera lover's top ten. Lyrics here.]
The Brits did bring forth Ralph Vaughan Williams, though, the only person so far as I know to have written a piece of music about Antarctica. No, I'm not going to play that to you, not after this terrible winter we've just emerged from. I am going to play a little snippet from Vaughan Williams' composition The Lark Ascending, voted the number one choice of listeners to Britain's Classic FM radio station in their annual poll last year, pushing the previous winner, Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2, down to … No. 2.
Here is some of The Lark Ascending, from the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
More from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending.]