Wow, I'm with chernevik on this one. Both perspectives were great to be brought up, but frankly, what's the difference with most Americans being worse off than this person and most of the people in the world being worse off? You are in fact saying the same thing - this guy has less right than he feels to be so sorry for himself.
Hacker News fosters a prominent startup community. Of course we're going to commiserate with this guy - we can identify with him. It's like posting an article about some dude going through a divorce on a marriage forum. People will commiserate with him. You wouldn't post about an investment banker there. If you posted about an investment banker on an investment banking forum however, I'm sure they would commiserate with him just as we are with this guy.
But that's another point entirely, because the investment banker's sorrow for his situation is just as valid as this failed entrepreneur's. Hell, I bet Hitler felt sorry for himself after losing WWII and killing millions of people, and that was just as valid. It is fully understandable for them to feel great pain at their condition, as they poured their hearts and lives into one thing or another, no matter how great or how small, how right or how wrong - they led their lives as they thought best, and it ended in failure or catastrophe - no matter how fleeting. You don't tell a grieving mother who just lost their child that it gets better, that they can just have a new one and really it's not as bad as it could have been, some poor mother just lost all three of her kids! And even though you're right - it does get better, and it could be worse, just as it is in this case, that mother will still grieve the loss of her child and this entrepreneur will still mourn the failure of his company. And deep down inside, I'm sure they know logically that it will get better, that it's not as bad as it could have been - but emotionally, right now, it still feels like the end of the world.
This story could easily end one of three ways that I see presently - one, he kills himself now in the height of his emotional sorrow, two, he gets back on the hill and starts another company that either succeeds or fails (in which case, repeat these three cases), or three, he takes a steady job giving a steady income for a stable life but never achieves the great dreams he hoped to (or he starts another company at a later date in which case repeat scenario 2).
However, regardless of which path he takes, his pain in the present moment is valid. It is not made any less valid by the fact that he is better off than most people in one of his resultant possible scenarios.
Moreover, is it valid for him to want more than his peers? What if he's really not satisfied by leading a stable life with a stable income? Is that okay? Or should we slap him in the face and tell him he's fucking lucky to be where he is and he needs to stop acting so privileged and ungrateful? And if the answer is no, it's not valid for him to want more, then it's equally invalid for us to want anything as well. Where do you draw the line? Are we ungrateful and overly privileged for wanting more than some bland minimally nutritious food and a roof over our heads? Are we ungrateful and overly privileged to want basic plumbing, a nice hot shower, a family that loves us, to be valued in our society and to be able to contribute to our society, anything at all? How is it up to us to judge what others want to accomplish with their lives and consequently impugn their sorrow and pain at failing to achieve what they had hoped to?
Another thought - are you going to slap a suicidal middle-class teenager in the face and tell them to grow the fuck up and realize how privileged they are, how most Americans and in fact almost all teenagers in the world are worse off than them? Why not?
It's because their pain is valid. Our emotions normalize to our situation - always, no matter how high or low we get in life, and they're just as valid regardless of where they're normalized to. Just because this guy isn't going to be broke for the rest of his life and have his family made homeless doesn't mean he doesn't feel pain, and that pain isn't valid. He poured his heart and soul into something, and it died on him - because of him.
The author isn't expressing implicit approval of this entrepreneur's reaction to that text - he's telling a story in its full color, as it so often plays out. This is a universally common response to some sort of suffering. It could easily have been written about a mother who's kid just died of cancer:
"She heard the ping of her phone, someone late hearing the news sending a text to offer their condolences. She knew they meant well, but their encouraging platitudes filled her with contempt. What did they know of her pain?"
It has nothing to do with his perceived privilege, him being better off than others, etc. If you accept his pain as valid, this is a valid response to that pain.
And if you don't accept his pain as valid, then none of us should ever have valid pains - or joys, for that matter, since our joy clearly cannot match the joy of a man given a morsel of bread after having starved for weeks on end, or any other emotion that someone else has experienced as a consequence of a more extreme causative factor.
So, to summarize what I've learned from this thread:
Next time I sleep with a schizophrenic woman who brought a pocketknife to her failed startup, when I hear her go to the bathroom at night I'll be like "Hey baby, no need to get all slashy-slashy doing the serious wrist thing, I mean, just look at Hitler, he had problems too."
The point is made. One will always find people with worse situation than us and who suffer more. Does this help ? Of course not.
Does it mean that if something hurt us we can't tell it, share it or complain about it ? It's not an easy question.
My impression is that saying that something hurts you provides some relief, especially if the people around you have some empathy or offer help. On the other hand, if the people you say it to, suffer as much or more, than it will hurt them. This is the short term effect.
On the long term, the real benefit of sharing such types of feeling is that other people get prepared for the hurting feeling in a similar situation. This generates an inhibition effect which is today best transmitted by films. This is not entertainment. We learn from it and get prepared and accustomed to it.
This doesn't address the question if the hurting situation is unfair, could be avoided and how. There are very hurting situations we can't avoid like cancer or an invalidating accident. But there are hurting situations we could have avoided and so sharing the experience has an education effect. You might not benefit from it, but there will always be one that will profit from the education effect.
Parenthetically, my own First World Nightmare scenario involves working with people like the ones who commented in that video. ("500 Startups does not want to be associated with Hitler... I know people whose families were murdered by the Nazis. I hope you decide to take this video down.")
Laughter in the face of evil is perhaps civilization's last, best strike against it. It's a shame the butthurt commenters didn't understand that. All they have to do is put themselves in Hitler's shoes and imagine his fury at these parodies... but that requires stepping outside their own worldview for a moment, and setting aside the indignation they've earned by being a vicarious victim.
I'm glad the submitter didn't actually take the video down a year ago, despite saying he was going to, and despite the fact that it evidently cost him some karma points among people he respected.