Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash: Killing fish vs. seeing hookers, The Lamest Generation (Boomers), and the virtue of mystery

Matt Labash Columnist
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While fly fishing the canals of Amsterdam I found myself in the Red Light District.  I hooked into something large with a forked tail, and even upon release, I didn’t recognize the species. One of the hookers came out of her window and told me she liked fish and would have gladly traded her tail for the tail I just released. Being past my fornication days, I thanked her and moved on down the canal. My question to The Wise is this….which is more unethical, keeping the fish or pounding her tail as hard as I did the forked one? They are both mortal sins…aren’t they? — Chad from Amsterdam, Netherlands

Not sure what kind of fish you ran into. A zander, maybe? But unbeknownst to many, fishing in Amsterdam canals can actually be fruitful. According to the City Indian, a kayak fishing outfitter smack in the heart of the city, they will do their level best to hook you into “huge basses, sly perches, and cunning pikes.” They will supply everything you need, including amusing broken English. Hookers sold separately.

Which brings us to your tasteful question: is employing the services of a prostitute a mortal sin on a par with keeping fish? As a good, God-fearing Protestant, I don’t spend much time deliberating over mortal sin. Or rather, we generally believe all sins are mortal, which is why we require grace — to escape what we have coming to us. So there’s not much point in ranking iniquity. But since I’m short on questions this week, I’ll play along with your senseless, pope-worshipping need to stick a sin in its proper place in the hierarchy of evil.

Mind you, I find both behaviors abhorrent. If you’re going to keep fish — a practice I’ve preached against on many occasions, having categorically demonstrated that Jesus was a catch-and-release man  — I definitely wouldn’t keep fish from the filthy canals of Amsterdam, where they’re likely to contain higher-than-trace amounts of PCB’s and Purple Kush. Nor would I encourage prostitution. There is no such thing as a happy prostitute. Not only because as a child,  she was probably molested by her uncle or beaten by her father, nor just because she is giving the most sacred part of herself over — on demand, without emotional investment — for a few filthy shekels in order to eke out what in all likelihood is a  below-subsistence living. (Not unlike bloggers at the Huffington Post.) But look who she has to have sex with, poor girl. The kind of morally rudderless reprobates who’d write a faux advice columnist to ask if paying her for sex is worse than keeping fish.

Of course it isn’t! Even if you and a hooker are mutually and cynically taking advantage of each other for profit or pleasure, you are both (presumably) doing so consensually. Whereas, when you  kill a fish, only one of you gets a say in the matter. If that makes me a squish, so be it. But I will forever defend a fish’s right to choose.

Matt – I am in my late fifties, and EVERY SINGLE DAY THAT GOES BY, I am amazed how most of my fellow Boomers act. Most act like: They never heard of rock’n’roll, never took drugs, never had any REAL fun, never had sex outside of marriage, never had a drink in their life, never had earrings (men), never had long hair (men), and tell all of these contrived horror stories about how bad their lives were… In other words, by and large, most of my fellow Boomers have become the most puritanical, non-religious, the-kids-stay-at-home-until-they-are-40 enablers on the freaking planet… WTF! – Kevin

Well, I’m not a Boomer. I’m a Gen-X’er — a label I was never entirely thrilled with, hoping for something snazzier, like The Latest Generation — on account of my  inability to show up on time, as readers of this erratically published column know. But I’m not sure you and me are living in the same country.

I’ll grant you that while most Boomers spent the ‘60s through the ‘80s doing whatever they felt like doing, then celebrating themselves for it, they’ve morphed into a new strain of liberalism. Nowadays, they take much more pleasure in telling others what they can’t do (smoking, eating trans fats, burning fossil fuels) rather than partaking in what they once loved to do themselves (having promiscuous sex and smoking lots of weed). To many of them, prudish sanctimony is the new hedonism.  Any idiot can make their own fun. But real fun is ruining somebody else’s.

Yet in the America that I know, Boomers are still the same solipsistic, self-entitled, vainglorious, reap-all-the-benefits-while-making-few-of-the-sacrifices, over-spending, materialistic, nostalgizing, sentimentalizing, collagenized, botoxed, forever-young-because-they-refuse-to-act-their-age centers of the universe as they’ve always been. So go easier on your generation. They deserve some points for consistency.

I have no idea who or what you are all about…and after reading your {bio} “blurb,” I still have no idea who or what the hell you are all about AND I find that refreshing!!! Keep up the good work!!! – Joe Bladder

That sounded less like a question than a left-handed compliment/accusation. Usually a violation of column policy, as we do technically call this thing Ask Matt Labash. But in the interest of partial disclosure, I’ll concede that there are plenty of days when I too have no idea who I am or what I am about. Nor do I have any idea who you are or what you are about. Though it seems this mutual mysteriousness works for us. In an age of habitual over-sharing, mystery has become the most underrated virtue. This is helpful to remember, since we are all one self-broadcast away from revealing ourselves to be as unremarkable as suspected.

Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” is now available in paperback from Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.