Badges Redux

May 17, 2015

It’s 5:37 as I write this. Getting late in the day for a blog this Sunday in May. And I’m tired. … Tired of playing the game… Ain’t it a shame? I’m soo tired….Dammit I’m exhausted!

Those are about the only lyrics I feel good about quoting from Madeline Kahn’s send-up of Marlene Dietrich. I’ve come off another semester of teaching kids who haven’t seen Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles and who would have absolutely no idea who Dietrich was in the first place. The only good thing here is that they can indeed find both of them on U-tube if they are inspired to figure out what the old geezer in the front of the room might be gassing about today.

And I’ve just come from a weekend at the “Food Justice Workshop”—a student organized activity at MSU that deserves high praise. But for some reason—no good reason mind you (other than, as I’ve already noted “I’m pooped already!”)—hanging out with all these young and idealistic kids (I know, I know…people in their mid-twenties don’t like to be called kids, but give me a break) makes me, well, you know, tired. Like explaining to the astonished student who took the bus in from Boulder, Colorado that I had seen the Airplane there back in ’69. She probably thought I meant that a saw an airplane there back in 1869.

I’ve got some colleagues (not quite as young as these kids in their twenties) who are working on a project to create a list of tasks that will promote food justice. (I know, I know. Don’t make fun of this stuff. Just cut me some slack this week. I’m tired!). The idea is that you sign up on a website, and then when you’ve checked in enough to report on your activity, you’ll earn a “badge”, just like you do when you eat at three vegetarian restaurants on Yelp!

Actually, there are already some real badges for more significant activities that are already given out by the Boy Scouts of America. Great stuff. I’m not knocking it. I’m just in that state of mind where the whole world is my voodoo doll. I’m just going with Blazing Saddles again, this time when Mel Brooks was lampooning not Marlene Dietrich but Alfonso Bedoya from Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Earning badges for food justice?

We don’t need no stinking badges!

Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University

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