Sunday, July 27, 2014

Living and Giving Among San Francisco's Nouveau Riche

I have been a San Franciscan for just over a decade.  There are times when I am tempted to believe that is one decade too long.  I never give in to this temptation because I am destined to show San Franciscans the path to enlightenment.  The local nouveau riche class is still finding its way to acceptance.

The New Yorker article "California Screaming" is the East Coast Establishment's way of looking down its nose at San Francisco's newly rich.  That magazine's circulation base is mostly old money trust fund babies who turn into full-time salon intellectuals, plus the libraries and medical offices serving a pretentious crowd.  No self-respecting East Coast WASP would ever agonize about how to bring public policy innovation to the lower classes.  Such trite notions are beneath them.  They would simply write a check to their favorite charity and get back to shopping in the Hamptons.  The Bay Area fetish for "getting involved" in solving poor people's problems must amuse the monied elites to no end at the other end of our continent.

We do things differently out here in the Bay Area.  I have observed the One Percent of this nine-county MSA long enough to understand that their social cognizance is precisely calculated.  The lyrics are a bit different out here but the song remains the same.  The social climbers on the East Coast would recognize the tune even if they deign not to hum along.  The "do something" impulse in the Bay Area means the nouveau riche tech elite translates its skill set into charitable outreach that . . . further enhances its skill set.

Full Circle Fund is the leading exhibit for the Bay Area elite's attitude toward charity.  Its members pay a premium for the privilege of helping accelerate local charities' tech adoption curves.  That effort, plus some high-end socializing, is a big career enhancer for mid-level corporate project managers in greater San Francisco.  I have nothing against Full Circle Fund, and I would probably join them if I thought my skills fit their needs.  The fund and its non-profit clients need well-pedigreed managers whose social connections translate into donations and prestigious board memberships.  They probably have no use for a sarcastic financial analyst, like yours truly.  I would just get in the way of their latest dynamic change initiatives.

The local social climbers who are not techies have their own philanthropic settings, aping the best salons on the East Coast.  I am a longtime member of BRAVO!, Symphonix, and ENCORE! where San Francisco's most pretentious yuppies cultivate a very selective meat market.  Quite a few of these people have blood connections to their fellow snobs on the Atlantic seaboard.  Some members of those organizations have asked me to leave over the years because they disapprove of my social class origins.  I refuse to leave, and that is my declaration of moral superiority over nouveau riche class condescension.  They need me around more than they will ever know.

San Francisco's socioeconomic elite has always ranked as the younger sibling to the New York and Boston elites whose ancestors gave the United States of America its founding mythos.  The locals are good at copying the East's social rituals but a copy never has the fidelity of the original.  Tech-oriented philanthropy is The City's native elite language.  Local branches of Eastern families will never grok the tech elite's culture or allow its practitioners to penetrate their hallowed drawing rooms.  That's too bad.  They're missing a decent sales pitch for the latest gadgetry.