Smug Index

Boston prides itself on being a haven of high-minded thinking—something that’s also made us insufferable.

By Paul Kix | Boston Magazine |

This summer Mayor Tom Menino joined in the fray, announcing that he would forbid Chick-fil-A from opening a store in Boston, because its president didn’t believe in gay rights. It was an act of liberal censorship that even the Globe’s politically correct editorial page called a very bad idea. “History will render judgment on the views of Chick-fil-A executives,” the paper declared. “City Hall doesn’t have to.” The mainly white activists who mounted the recent campaign against Whole Foods added to the madness, too. Just like the Watch and Ward Society of years past, the J.P. activists insisted that they knew what was best for their community. And what was best, they argued, was to ensure that J.P. kept other white people out, which meant keeping that Latin grocery and blocking the advent of Whole Foods. “There are about 50 different ways to interpret Whole Foods,” says state Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, a lifetime J.P. resident who now represents the neighborhood. “The big issue was gentrification, but the neighborhood was gentrified a long time ago.”

That had to be irritating—the interminable meetings, the demands that the neighborhood remain “authentic,” the civic disruptions and the arrests. This was at best hypocritical and at worst demeaning to the disenfranchised people the activists were claiming to help.

In the end, the activists lost their battle. Whole Foods is now well established in Jamaica Plain, and by all accounts it’s doing a brisk business. What’s funny, though, and not a bit ironic, according to Jeffrey Sánchez, is that a lot of the activists who so adamantly opposed the store are now apparently quite happily doing their shopping there.

And why not? The store, after all, really does sell a lot of organic produce.

  • CraigInDaVille

    Is there irony in the fact that the writer seems to think that the smugness quotient in Boston is higher than elsewhere and thus worthy of comment? Try living in a place like Santa Cruz, CA, for a few years, then move to Boston and tell me whether the anecdotal evidence is as strong as you think.

    • Jonathan

      Exactly. Boston barely registers on the smug scale of liberal cities – in fact, it could still use more progressive thought.

  • http://www.lifealive.com Heidi

    Smug? Look in the mirror. Your whole topic is smug and self righteous. You have pretended to be a journalist to insult people based on a single study? People who choose to buy organics perhaps struggle to do so because environmental and food safety is important to them. They are actually caring for self and others by spending more. Who is to say giving change to the homeless is more generous? Altruism comes in varied forms. You sit in judgement without thinking deeply. Life Alive’s community is not dogmatic, nor preachy (like yourself) we just work to promote holistic sustainability and share the knowledge. Our choices to give our energy and excess to this cause in addition to or instead of others is just a fact of life for most of us. We are appreciative of the opportunity to learn, give and feel our power to make a difference at Life Alive. Noticing how you feel after eating organic therapeutic food and paying more for it to support fair wages and sustainable agriculture is not smugness, it’s just feeling good inside…and that’s a blessing in todays world when there is so much suffering and stress around us.

    • DevilPatrick

      U so crazy

      • DevilPatrick

        So you take your parents money, spend it on overpriced grass and that makes you altruistic?? Whoooooo whatever gets u thru the night

        • Anonymous

          And how do you know that she’s spending her parents’ money? Not everyone here is a college kid living on their parents’ dime.

          • DevilPatrick

            Well maybe she dropped out who cares? I’m sure she still pays for her PBR with plastic at the bar. She post months ago she prob summering in the hamptons rite now. She makes a good argument about the self-righteousness of the author in the first sentence of her manifesto. Then proceeds to (unironically i might add) spew the most self-righteous penis-shrinking hairy bullshit that has been witnessed outside of an Emperor Obama teleprompter. Eat what u wanna eat babe no one cares. I know girls like this and they’re all chubby cuz they’re hitting the life alive/whole foods scene, then goin home drinkin a box of wine and inhaling a pound of cheese lets be real.

  • Anonymous

    So, you’re arguing that people who work for non-profits do less to help others on a regular basis? And the foundation of your argument is that after work, they don’t volunteer or donate money to charity. So, the 40+ hours a week spent actually doing the service work doesn’t count, huh?

    I’m one of those smug Bostonians you’re talking about here. I ride my bike to work at a non-profit and I eat at Life Alive occasionally. Contrary to your article, I bike because I can’t afford a car and the MBTA ride takes twice as long (plus it still costs money). I volunteer at least 2 hours a week outside of work, and I don’t believe that Life Alive’s food will cure me of anything — I just think it tastes good (mmmm, ginger!). Additionally, if you actually understood how giving works in America, you’d know that the majority of charity dollars go to religious institutions (mostly people donating to their own houses of worship). If you account for religious giving, the Northeast is actually ahead of the rest of the nation in terms of personal giving as a percentage of income.

    I wasn’t born here, and I did have some trouble adjusting at first. We can come off as smug, but that’s just on the surface. Not everyone is a fixie-riding, skinny jeans-wearing, PBR-drinking, eco-fanatic hipster. Yes, some are, and some even own businesses. I don’t magically become a hipster just by buying their products. Like everyone else, I’m an actual human being with diverse interests that don’t fit into any one stereotype. So next time you see my walking into Life Alive, maybe you could dial back on your own smug judgement.