Due to unusual circumstances that I won't even get into, I found myself at a ritzy event, surrounded by wealthy individuals. I happened to be standing near the door, and I saw members of the one percent walk in.
For the most part, they were polite and just like you and me. However, the exceptions were numerous enough to notice.
One guy showed up with a full entourage, and he was shocked when security asked for their tickets. His look -- "Don't you know who I am? -- didn't persuade them to let in his pals. A woman impatiently snapped, "I don't have my ticket. Just let me in." She was stunned when this demand went unfulfilled.
The best moment came when an attendee -- obviously wealthy -- walked up to security and tried to cajole them into letting in a half dozen of his friends. He didn't even try to hide the fact that they hadn't bothered to pay for the event. The security guys refused.
I couldn't help but think about the aluminumadores in my neighborhood. These people scrounge through recycling bins to collect cans and bottles that will earn them a few dollars. They are broke, broke, broke.
Now, I certainly don't want to lapse into some kind of sentimental "the poor are noble and beautiful" mindset. Anybody who has ever been screamed at by an aggressive homeless person knows that poverty doesn't create sages, regardless of what Hollywood movies tell you.
However, the aluminumadores in my neighborhood at least try to maintain some kind of dignity in spite of their humiliating circumstances. Contrast that with what I witnessed at the upscale party, where a wealthy man groveled and whined just to get his presumably rich friends inside. I'm also talking about the arrogance of people who wanted free access to an event that they could clearly afford.
In both cases, these were privileged individuals who assumed that the rules didn't apply to them. I don't know where they got that idea, but maybe (just possibly) it could be because they see that the guys who nearly destroyed the economy are even more loaded now than they were before the Great Recession, suffering no consequences for their greed.
Meanwhile, middle-class people are pilloried, for the most part by other middle-class people who have fallen in love with their upper-class overlords (which, as I've written before, is a necessary step in the creation of any third-world society).
Yes, it's purely anecdotal, but I couldn't help but notice how many rich people at the upscale event were clamoring for, dare I say it, a free pass (in other words, a handout). The irony, of course, is that this is the accusation that has been hurled at Occupy Wall Street.
As Matt Taibbi has pointed out, it's not a yearning for freebies or class envy that motivates OWS. It's the sense that certain people have rigged the game and cheated to reach their exalted level. And once perched atop the socioeconomic pyramid, they find it's still not enough (e.g., trying to bully their way into an exclusive event).
I don't know about you, but watching the reprehensible behavior of these few did not feel me with jealousy. It was something closer to repulsion.
But what do I know -- I'm not rich.