Martin Shkreli, aka the Internet's most hated man, was arrested today for securities fraud. While it's gratifying that he's apparently getting his comeuppance, is Shkreli really so much worse than the rest of his generation?
Yes, Shkreli allegedly cheated investors. But then he comes from a generation where 82% of high school students admit to plagiarizing from other students, an astronomically higher percentage than previous generations.
Shkreli also famously raised the price of a life-saving drug from $13.50 to $750 per tablet. That sounds harsh, but is it all that much worse than Gen-Y's cultish belief in free markets and disruptive innovation even when that means destroying livelihoods?
Shkreli raised hackles when he spent $2 million for a Wu Tang Clan album and then refused to release it. However, Shkreli actually paid for that content album and in that sense is more ethical than the average Millennial who sees nothing wrong in downloading (aka stealing) "free" copyrighted content.
There's also no denying that Shkreli is a narcissist who live-streams his life. On the other hand, didn't his generation pretty much invent the selfie? In fact, there's never been a generation as narcissistic and absorbed in "self esteem" as Gen-Y.
And, say what you will about Shkreli, he did put time and energy into public service, by serving as chairman of a nonprofit that promotes peace and economic development for human rights in the Balkans.
In that respect, Shkreli is above-average for his generation which is markedly less altruistic than previous generations:
"Millennials were less likely than Boomers and even GenXers to say they thought about social problems, to be interested in politics and government, to contact public officials, or to work for a political campaign... Three times as many Millennials as Boomers said they made no personal effort to help the environment."
So, rather than joining in on the Shkreli-bashing, perhaps Gen-Y should be honest with itself and embrace him as one of their own. Is he really that exceptional other than he's more successful than his generational peers?
I strongly suspect many Millennials will dismiss this post as pure curmudgeonry. And that's hilariously ironic, because the hallmark of Gen-Y's particular brand of narcissism is their inability to tolerate criticism from somebody over 35.
Am I painting with a broad brush? Absolutely. But so do the all-too-common articles that praise Millennials to high heaven. If you're willing accept the fulsome praise, you shouldn't be entirely surprised if somebody slathers paint in a darker hue.