Earlier this week, I stopped in at Tom Naughton’s Fat Head blog, as I do relatively often. While there, I took in My Thanks To The Dietary Guidelines Committee. This post takes the form of a thank-you missive to the USDA for continuing to promote nonsensical dietary advice–advice that could end up indirectly providing Tom’s own kids with a competitive advantage in life by virtue of their admittedly superior dietary upbringing.
I really enjoy Tom’s work. I think he’s a shrewd, funny guy (and just as importantly, he’s able to convey both of these qualities in his writing). And I don’t necessarily disagree with his post. In his main point–that the USDA is ridiculous–Tom is beyond reproach, and the whole thing is delivered with the kind of lightness that establishes it as the furthest thing from a manifesto.
When it comes to the whole the-kids-won’t-be-alright-except-mine thing, however, the humor is slightly too thin a veneer for a kind of thinking that scares me a little. I don’t want to live in a world where the large majority of people are sick, enfeebled, and generally less than capable, and I don’t think anyone else should, either. As much as we all need to be resourceful critical thinkers who can trust our instincts and rise above the fray, neither should we be wishing for the rest of humanity to achieve less than that.
I’m not saying anyone has the duty or ability to change the whole system. We can share our knowledge and convictions with others and even be agents for the kind of change we’d like to see. But our food system is a mirror of our value system, and that’s not something that’s going to change overnight or through the straining of any single person. There is no individual answer; lean too far on that way of thinking and it tips toward martyrdom, as Lierre Keith pointed out in The Vegetarian Myth.
And I’m thankful for advantages, self-fostered or externally conferred. But damn, some positive externalities just don’t seem worth rooting for.