This past weekend, as I sat in the packed Field House after seeing Michael J. Fox give a rather touching talk, I was struck by something. It wasn’t the some profound meaning behind the story of Fox’s struggle with Parkinson’s disease. It wasn’t the renewed realization that “Back to the Future: Part Three” really wasn’t all that good. It was the fact that we, as a society, have generally forgotten how to ask meaningful questions.
After his speech, the clearly tiring Fox opened to floor up to questions from the audience. Half of the questions he received were, in actual fact, statements; and of the real questions, not a one of them was particularly thoughtful or meaningful. Here these people were, given the opportunity to glean some insight from one of the world most famous actors and activists, and the questions they came up with were all basically pointless. One woman even had the gall to ask Fox if he was aware of the fact that many hospitals have as a budget item, the profit made off of Parkinson’s patients. I was, frankly, embarrassed for Fox as he had to shake off the question with some creatively worded response about his foundation’s work in general.
While the sample of a few audience members at a lecture in Rochester may not be particularly large or varied, I get the feeling that this response is indicative of our society today. We have forgotten how to ask the hard questions. We have become too comfortable with the easy option of accepting the world at face value. Because of this weakness, we have found ourselves at the fiscal and political mercy of mega-corporations, and are only now stopping to ask how the heck we got here. (See “Occupying America” on page 29.)
“Everybody lies.” Ironically, this motto, which has become a tagline for one of the most popular shows on television, manages to tell a fairly accurate truth. No one is going to tell you the truth when a lie benefits them more. The world is filled with half-truths and closed doors, all designed — maliciously or not — to keep information from us. The truth is: if we want the real truth, we’re going to have to remember how to ask the hard questions.
While the facts we ask in our daily lives may not be of world-changing importance, we would be wise to remember how to question them. Because sometimes a well timed, well thought out question can make all the difference in the world.