I’m not a native New Englander, as anyone who talks to me for more than 3 minutes knows. I’ve lived in many different and diverse areas of the country, so it’s given me a flavor for the unique cultures that different regions offer. Texas. Ohio. South Florida. Delaware. Spent a lot of time in San Jose. The Hudson Valley. And now New England. Ahhh, New England. Home of the free, land of the brave. And you’d have to be especially brave to try and start a business here.
But stories like this one make me wish I lived someplace different.
Imagine, a town is actively discouraging new businesses from opening in it. It would rather become deserted and empty than have — oh, the horror!! — the business of a Dunkin’ Donuts, a New England staple. Now, wait for the rationale:
One of the reasons, beyond traffic and parking concerns, town officials say, is that such franchises could damage the town’s character.
The “town’s character”??! Excuse me? What is that, a town’s “character?” People have character. Towns have buildings whose purpose it is to house commercial businesses that may or may not look similar in their exterior features. Apparently, Colonial brick buildings denote “character” to the town’s Selectmen. (Oddly enough, you’ll find similar draconian zoning laws in towns with very different “characters,” such as those in Coral Springs, FL, which looks nothing like Wellesley.)
There’s no obvious traffic or parking concerns, given there’s no drive-through and this business is in a small strip of commercial businesses with ample parking. (If you didn’t want businesses here, you shouldn’t have approved the original building permit to begin with.)
If you click-through to the article, you’ll see a tastefully subtle brick building with a bay window housing the Dunkin’ Donuts, sporting a wood-carved sign. Next to the Dunkin’ Donuts is a very un-Colonial looking building with a one-foot overhang that is clad in what looks to be vinyl siding. The Dunkin’ Donuts sign is lit by incadescent bulbs in historical replica fixtures. The building next to it sports a fluorescent light for its sign. Compare the two businesses. Which one looks more in keeping with a small New England business and the town’s “character?”
I could care less about another Dunkin’ Donuts (there’s so many up here, it’s almost weird).
I do care about the protectionistic, isolationist view so many (but not all) New England towns seem to embrace. It’s no wonder Massachusetts is losing more people than almost every other state in the country. It’s anti-business and often hostile to anybody it views as an “outsider.” Luckily, I live in a somewhat more liberal town that while recognizing the value of protecting the past, isn’t outright hostile to new businesses (that even the townspeople who supposedly are against frequent!).
What’s this got to do with psychology? Well, somebody should study this phenomenon. Oh, wait, people already have. It’s called “Not In My Back Yard” (NIMBY) and it’s the favorite pasttime of many Americans. Put all that stuff someplace else, just not in my neighborhood. And the related phenomenon of, “Close the doors to immigrants, because my great grandparents already made it in.”
Well I say, go ahead, put it in my backyard because I don’t use it anyway. And keep the doors to immigrants open, because the next Albert Einstein or Mozart may very well be knocking.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Mar 2006
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Grohol, J. (2006). Living in a Small Town…. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2006/03/30/living-in-a-small-town/