“It just leaves a whole lot more questions and no answers, in my opinion.” — Liberal leader Yvonne Jones, on rural health cuts (September 2009)
It’s been building at a slow creep, but authorities are now raising red flags about a new environmental hazard.
The threat? Unanswered questions.
(“The threat?” was just a rhetorical question, by the way. Just in case, though, I will hold off in future on interrogative utterings until this menace is dealt with.)
There was a time when unanswered questions were limited to a handful of eternal puzzles, to which no one really expected answers. Is there a God? What is our purpose in life? Why would anyone grow sideburns?
These days, we live in a sea of unrequited curiosity.
The headlines say it all.
• “AIDS questions remain unanswered”
• “Budget agreement leaves unanswered questions”
• “Unanswered questions on cause of train accident”
• “Dodd-Frank passes but leaves questions unanswered”
That last one was a U.S. Senate bill, by the way. Shouldn’t they have answered the questions before passing it?
Oops … Yes! The answer is yes. (Sorry about that.)
In this province, there’s no escape from the unanswered question overload. Every day, the curiosity mill churns out hundreds of unmet queries. Questions about health care tests and garden pests; about poisonous plants and political rants; hydro deals and baby seals. You get the picture.
“People these days are overly inquisitive,” said George Paxil, a professor of inquisitology at MUN. “They should be more complacent. Just let the powers that be handle things. Your cheque is in the mail, so to speak.”
Paxil places much of the blame at the feet of the government itself. As an example, he pointed to
a recent comment by Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale.
“Our government remains committed to openness and transparency,” the minister declared, “and will continue to inform residents in a timely and responsible manner.”
Paxil says that’s irresponsible.
“This government is far too liberal in releasing information,” he said. “Sometimes they’ll leave whole sentences unredacted. That’s just asking for trouble. Give them an inch and people will take a mile.”
Dealing with the glut
Meanwhile, authorities admit now that most of the question overflow may never go away. So, the question remains as to what to do with it. In fact, that question itself is contributing to the problem.
An initial proposal to dispose of the excess in Quidi Vidi Lake was scrapped when city staff found themselves inundated with questions from the public. They scrambled to answer as many as possible, but most ended up on the ever-growing heap.
As an interim measure, the military has established a temporary repository for unanswered questions — a sort of refugee camp for the unreplied. If space permits, the facility may also accommodate lingering doubts and possibly a few healthy concerns. However, orphaned questions will take priority.
As a precautionary measure, a spokesman has urged the public not to ask where the facility is located.
I don’t know where and how this mess will end, and I don’t want to know. I’m sure it will all work out in the end.
In the meantime, I’d like to think I’m doing my part. I’ve decided to shun investigative research and only write about things I already know. You may find this column getting significantly shorter in the weeks to come.
You, too, can help stamp out this global glut. The next time someone says your taxes are going up, or your backyard is being expropriated, just smile and say, “Thank you for letting me know.”
Don’t pollute the environment with niggling little inquiries. It’ll only make matters worse.
Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Yes! Yes it does.
Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s editorial page editor. He cane be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Declarative sentences only, please.)