I'm about to leave Montecito, and I realize what makes me uncomfortable about this town: it's very much divided by class. It's not that I've suddenly become a socialist; it's just that it's uncomfortable to be in a place where the divide between haves and have nots is so stark. (It's a little like Latin America or the Hamptons that way.)
My hometown in Connecticut is mostly upper middle class. There are a few very wealthy people there, and also some who are struggling. But for the most part, it is upper middle class. The biggest social activities tend to center around childrens' sports, and people drive their own kids around town. You see some nice cars and houses, but most do not scream money.
In Montecito, in the brief time I was in the hillside shopping center, I saw an Aston Martin Vanguard and two Ferraris. But it's not just the cars that are flashy. It's the mansions secluded behind tall hedges, the arty little shops, the beachside Coral Casino, and the ultraluxurious Biltmore. There are also the ever present servants. By "servants" I mean those whose jobs it is to cater to the rich in one way or another. There are guards at gated compounds, valets, and doormen, as well as lots of gardeners.
In my hometown there are people whose job it is to work on houses in various capacities. But there are no gated compounds, and people park their own cars.
Personally, I'm just not comfortable around "servants." It simply means more people to be polite to. For instance, I've never understood the appeal of a chauffeur. I'd rather drive my own car and not have one more person with whom I have to exchange forced pleasantries, someone who's going to know more about me than I'm comfortable with. It's simply more relaxing to be by yourself in your own car.
There seem to be a fair number of rich people who are very comfortable being surrounded by paid assistants. I can't help but suspect that some of that comfort derives from not really thinking of those assistants as fully human, and not feeling any need to be polite to them. Which says something about those rich people.
People who become upper middle class tend to get that way by being quietly responsible, intelligent, competent, and hard working. (Think doctors, small town lawyers, middle management types, engineers and teachers.)
People who become super wealthy sometimes get that way by being brilliant, but far more often they arrive by being aggressive, backstabbing, entitled, and even corrupt. (Think of hedge fund managers, Hollywood producers, corporate CEOs, and real estate moguls.) And once they become rich, they become even more entrenched in their narcissism.
I tend to get along with the former. I often end up despising the latter.
That said, I don't usually enjoy the company of poor people either. They are more likely to be irresponsible, chemically addled, not particularly intelligent, and resentful. Sometimes, they're even dangerous.
There are certainly both rich and poor people who are perfectly pleasant, as well as plenty of noxious members of the middle class. But the general correlations hold.
Anyway, today I say good-bye to this striated enclave -- heavenly as the scenery and weather are -- and head back to my middle class town, where I'm more comfortable.