Strongly Acidic

Were pH an expression of personality, what would be your pH and why? (Feel free to respond acidly! Do not be neutral, for that is base!) - Inspired by Joshua Harris, Class of 2016

Acid or base? Truthfully, I’ve got to describe myself as a definite acid - a solid, strongly acidic, 0.7. Why? Because of how opinionated I am. I still remember my first-grade teacher telling my Mom how great it was that I had an opinion on, well, everything. And that hasn’t really changed.

Those of us who are opinionated are undoubtedly acids. Acids carry the excess protons, which means they possess additional positive energy. This energy is given to the atoms around them through the process of radioactive decay. That pretty much sums up what happens when an opinionated acid like me has an encounter with other human beings. Our opinions, our extra energy, get “donated” to those around us.

That, of course, raises the question about what happens to those around us - to those who receive our energy? Well, experience has taught me that it all depends on the character of those other human beings, and on my ability to behave like the “better acid” when things go awry.

The encounters that have the best chance for positive outcomes are with those people who are somewhere on the middle of the pH scale. They usually have an opinion of their own, but are opened to being persuaded. Sometimes, when I am particularly passionate in a debate, my extra energy not only attaches to those in the conversation, but it also gives them energy to convince other people.

This happened two years ago during the annual FHSMUN conference. Serving as a Representative of Azerbaijan, I was so convincing in a debate about Armed Guerrilla Forces in Colombia that I was able to convince Russia and the U.S. to work together on a solution. They then convinced the rest of the Security Council to support the resolution.

Things get a little trickier when I find myself in conversation with someone who is as opinionated as I am, in other words, someone who is equally acidic. This situation can go one of two ways.

The good way is when after discussing and explaining our points of views one of us might be persuaded to the other’s position or, if not, we respectfully agree to disagree. Even though I am opinionated, I am not close-minded. I know my opinions are not always right, so I can be persuaded to another point of view. In fact, when things go well in an encounter with another strong acid, I learn something important -- either because I find a better opinion or I understand more about my opinion.

But things don’t always go well when two strong acids collide. We acids can be stubborn, and the situation can become volatile. In scientific terms, the community suffers from acidosis. Relationships turn sour, and the conversation may become personal and nasty. Having had this happen in the past, I’ve learned to be alert to the symptoms before the situation gets out of hand. When I see that neither of us is going to persuade the other and that our respectful debate is disintegrating, I choose to end it rather than risk straining the relationship. I consider this being the “better acid.”

When I encounter people who don’t have opinions or who aren’t interested in conversation, the “bases” of the world, the situation becomes neutral, exactly as the science predicts. Communication becomes small talk and prattle and, frankly, that doesn’t interest me at all. It’s boring.

As an acid, I am looking for reactions. It’s just my nature. Whether you agree with me or not, just bring your opinion and prepare for some fierce discussion. That way we’ll all benefit from the positive energy being injected into our community.