Saturday, May 07, 2011

Strip Clubs And Tradition

Susannah Breslin has penned an instructive piece on strip clubs as a part of her series called "How Your Journalism Sausage Gets Made". Since there's no moral or religious component of her story, the entire piece is devoted to how girls rub their bodies against men for money and how the club managers try to portray their business in some kind of positive light, something a third grader at my daughter's Catholic school could see through in about 15 seconds. As I read it, I found myself understanding what C. S. Lewis noted in Surprised By Joy - that even as an atheist, his favorite authors all somehow turned out to be Christian and that the others were too shallow.

Lacking such a foundation, a strip club is predictable, boring and trivial. I wanted to hear the girls' moral views and what they had to say about single motherhood or how they rationalized abortion. Instead, we get interviews that could have been done with apes millions of years ago, had apes been able to talk. It's basic biology and exploitation put to prose.

I also wanted to hear how the managers differentiated themselves from sex slave owners and how both they and the girls compared themselves to Uncle Toms. The life of a pole dancer is much nicer than that of a sex slave while their job descriptions are almost identical. None of that was forthcoming and Susannah seemed bored by the thing, which seems to have been the point in the first place. Making journalism sausage, it turns out, is a real yawner.

In any case, the article ends with Susannah wondering why her series on Journalism has been so popular with younger (J-school?) readers. When answered, her reaction contains an enthusiastic endorsement of one of the reasons they like her work:
I like the part about how this generation doesn’t want a boss, they don’t want to play by the rules, they want to be out crawling around and finding things out for themselves.
The scientific analysis that led to the writing of Talent is Overrated utterly destroys "not playing by the rules" and "not following the rules". Such an approach to life is a recipe for mediocrity at best and slovenly failure at worst. As a counterexample, I offer this interview with Jerry Rice.

Here are Jerry's credentials. Jerry played by the rules and had bosses whom he followed willingly. Dittos for concert violinists, priests like Father Boyle and just about any superstar you might want to name. "Not playing by the rules" is all nonsense. "The rules" represent millennia of human learning. As G. K. Chesterton pointed out, tradition is giving our ancestors a vote in how society behaves. Throwing it out is an act of temporal snobbery. It's thumbing your nose at the great thinkers of the past and closing your eyes to time-honored ways of self-improvement and achievement.

Not to worry. The days of "not playing by the rules" are almost over.

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