There Are Such Things As Stupid Questions

The First Essential Scary Truth


The streets of New York are almost empty, night and day, almost like it’s a holiday weekend.  The rush of humanity blustering around, next, through, by you, fierce in it’s determination to get there first, wherever that maybe, has become shy and timid.  The last cabbie that blew his horn made it sound like an apology for existing.  Such is the timbre of the city as the first blush of the financial crisis punches us in the gut.  I haven’t seen the entirety of NYC with this much anxiety since week following 9/11.


The difference between the terrorist threat of 2001 and the financial crisis of 2008 has forced certain characteristics of fear to the fore.  It seems the edge that many are walking is very sharp and painful and people tend to verbally snap at each other when they feel pushed or threatened.  The one thing that the looming bailout, failure to bailout, and possible deep recession have destroyed once and for all is the concept of intelligent civic discussion. 


I am one of those who enjoys reasonable discussions on occasionally divisive topics but in the past few months I have stopped talking about anything controversial at all, specifically anything political.  I just leave it at sports and movies, two topics that rarely get heated to the point of punches being thrown.  In order to get into a discussion about politics or current events it seems everyone wants you to answer a question.  For someone on the left, the question goes like this: don’t you think Bush is an idiot?  The folks on the right want to know if you believe, as they do, that the liberals are G-dless and screwing up the country.  If you don’t agree with the person promulgating said point, you are wrong and the discussion must cease immediately.  In other words answer my stupid question in the affirmative or shut up.  Granted, I hear most of these discussions take place in a bar, restaurant or on CNN, MSNBC or FOX but it is troubling to see how our existential fears and passions are governing our reason.  How did we sink so low; a bad education system, fear of the unknown or just the final death rattle of the lost art of conversation?  How we got here is a useless point to discuss.  The Stupid People have won.  The Idiocracy of Mass Man is now running the national debate.     


There are those of you that would claim I am overreacting and am allowing my Ortega fueled paranoia to run amok.  Passion is good, even when that passion is misguided and stupidity is simply ignorance and as a society we must educate those that are uneducated, you might argue.


Interesting point. 


I remember someone once telling me there was no such thing as a stupid question, only the stupid people that don’t ask them.  Well now it goes both ways. 


A year or so back, a server I worked with ordered a Grey Goose on the rocks.


As I poured the drink, she asked me why, when we pour vodka in the ice, it melts.  At first I thought I was being put on, after all, Ellie was an aspiring comedienne and being fodder for a new routine had a certain appeal.


“No, Alex.  I’m serious.  I don’t know why the ice melts,” She reiterated.


At first I thought a didactic lecture on physics was in order but the bar was filling up.  I decided to entertain my guests and myself.  “Ellie, you’re Jewish, right?”  I asked.


“Yes I am, just like you.”


I grabbed her forearm.  “Honey, if your genes would have pre-dominated, the Hittites would have gotten us back in the day.”


Ellie looked at me like a grouper that I’d just kicked in the ribs: totally uncomprehending.  “Alex, what is a Hittite?”


Granted, I should have seen that answer coming.  However, the larger point still remains: without a sense of history, science and a debating style run from the point of fear that encourages the slinging out of epithets instead of reasoned, rational thought, how can we make intelligent arguments.  After all isn’t debate the life’s blood of the republic? 


My proposal to stem the tide of group stupidity in venues unbecoming is to bring back public floggings – every Thursday at noon in public parks all over the USA.  The crankiest barman/woman in the various locales is the person who will decide and mete out the punishments. 


How would you get our public discourse back onto an intelligent track?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Every Friday, get 2 for 1 movie tickets when you use your Visa Signature card.

Recent Comments