Sunday, September 30, 2007

September 18, 2007

I never thought there would come a day when Tony Campolo would call me a liberal intellectual. Really, I never thought there would come a day when I would even meet Tony Campolo.

It was a week ago Friday when Tony spent a day with our class. He was talking at length about local community development and the potential to eliminate poverty through job creation when I spoke up. He had given an example of a town that started a business out of a need the town had for batteries. The town had been buying batteries from the town next door and so someone decided to offer rechargeable batteries at a much lower price while recharging them from solar panels. The conclusion of the story was that by developing jobs a town’s economy can stimulated greatly. But I asked “What about the other community?”, since they would no longer be selling batteries. “Aren’t there consequences in that situation that negatively affect another group of people?” I asked. “Why would we want to just transfer the poverty? Isn’t there a way to stimulate the struggling economy without adversely affecting the other?”

“There always has to be one in the crowd,” Tony retorted. “You’re just a liberal intellectual that has to think of every possible outcome to a situation. Obviously there’s no perfect solution.”

And then, just yesterday, I had to write a paper reflecting on a certain topic in anthropology. As I wrote the paper I found myself criticizing the author for being too optimistic and not practical enough, for not thinking through all the possible problems with his theory. Again, I was being a “liberal intellectual” according to Tony Campolo, I was allowing my questioning nature to look for every possible negative aspect of a theory without recognizing that no program or theory is perfect.

Through these two experiences I am working on approaching situations with much more optimism in order to find the benefits before finding the faults. I do this with people just as I do this with theories. Everyone deserves a chance and I will work much harder at offering that chance. Besides, being the guy that constantly rains on someone’s parade isn’t very fun.

After the discussion was over Tony leaned over and said to me, “besides Michael, the people weren’t putting another small company out of business by offering rechargeable batteries. . . they had been buying the batteries from Wal-Mart all along.”

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