I have this theory that every region has its own special brand of asshole. Someone who takes whatever qualities the region is famous for embracing and lumps them together so as to form a shield of socially accepted performative asshattery.
For example: I live in the Pacific Northwest. One of the things this region is known for is its pro-environment stance. City supported composting? P patchs? One car families? Hybrid vehicles? Re-usable shopping bags? Preference for all things organic and sustainably sourced? Damn straight.
We’re known for being environmentally inclined because, by and large, we really *are* into “being green.” Note how it’s not about just “looking green;” most people aren’t publically jumping up and down in their thrifted jackets, rattling their reusable metal travel cups, and saying, “Look at me! LOOK AT HOW MUCH I CARE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT!” and then privately mixing their recyclables with their trash. Sustainable living is a genuine, deeply held value among a large chunk of the populace.
But that’s one of the tricky aspects of living your values: even when your performance reflects those values, people can only see the performance and as such the performance, in and of itself, gains social traction.
You *could* authentically live a completely environmentally unfriendly value set in the Pacific Northwest. You *could*, say, plop a McMansion down in the middle of Seattle and parade around town in your endangered species fur coat collection while dripping jewelry made from problematically sourced precious gems and driving a Hummer. Nothing is technically stopping you.
But you’re going to a get a whole lot of side eyes. It’s Seattle, so as far as disapproving glares go, the side eyes will probably be pretty polite, but still. If you have an iota of self-awareness, you’ll get the message that your behavior is not considered “charmingly eccentric,” but rather straight up gross and that makes your life more difficult than it has to be. So maybe you move to a lovingly restored craftsman, hit up REI, and start driving your Prius to farmers markets because you want to fit in.
You learn that whatever it is you want to do, you can probably get away with it *if* you provide some kind of green cover for yourself. That’s where the regionally specific brand of assholery comes in. Case in point:
The people behind me in line at crowded lunch joint were quietly talking about what to do now that they’d lost their jobs. The couple behind them were congratulating each other on their decision to trade in their 2012 Mercedes hybrid SUV for a 2014 Lexus hybrid SUV because the Lexus is a better decision for “the children’s safety” and “the planet.” It was the kind of back-patting thing where it seemed like neither person would be too surprised should the Pope call and offer them sainthood.
I must confess that I am not well versed in the literature surrounding the relative safety and environmental impact of late model luxury hybrid SUVs. But I feel comfortable assuming that the 2012 Mercedes hybrid SUV is neither the kinder-deathtrap nor the greenhouse gas king of stupid-expensive status vehicles. These people just wanted a flashy new car and they wanted everyone around them to know about it.
Note their use of “the children” as a blanket reason for doing what they wanted to do anyway. That’s a great example of performative cover for asshattery that works on an global scale. It’s international assholery. But using “the planet” to justify your behavior? That’s only going to fly with an audience that fully embraces the “green.” It’s regionally specific assholery.
If these dicks moved to a region that was, say, big into religion or the arts, they’d find a way to conspicuously purchase luxury vehicles “for Jesus” or “to nurture creativity.”
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a flashy new car, but there’s something incredibly gross about co-opting a performance based on people’s deeply held values to justify your purchase of said car instead of just saying, “I think cars are neat and I’ve got spare cash so I’m totally going to buy a new car.”
The least obnoxious option is just to buy the damn car and shut up about it especially when you’re standing right next to unemployed people but, since we’re talking about assholes here, that option is clearly off the table.
And thus we’re left with a regionally specific brand of asshole: the jerk who engages in otherwise off-putting behaviors or conversations, publically and with zeal, under the cloak of green-ness.
No matter where you move, you’ll encounter bullshit. But the Theory of Regional Assholery dictates that if you move to the Pacific Northwest, this is the kind of bullshit you can expect. I wonder why more tourist boards don’t include that in their marketing campaigns…
So… what does regionally specific asshole-ism look like where you live? What rhetorical and performative cloaks enable local dicks to get away with their dick-ery?