OK, Boomer

Columns Editor Sumner Wallace ’20 shares her thoughts on the increasingly popular “OK, Boomer” meme.

A new generational war has broken out, and words are the weapon of choice. Two little words in particular have sparked fury in the middle-aged and plastered smug grins on the faces of teenagers and twenty-somethings everywhere: “OK, Boomer.”  

“Boomers”, or more accurately Baby Boomers, are individuals born between 1946 and 1964. After World War II, the US economy boomed (thus the name) in what some have called the golden age of capitalism, and as a result, the Boomers enjoyed an above average income. Despite the constant fear of nuclear war, the American dream flourished. 

For Millenials, individuals born between 1981 and 1996, this American dream is increasingly hard to realize. Gen Zers (1997 to the present) are similarly disadvantaged. Our standard of living will be worse than our parent’s generation, the first time this has ever happened. The ice caps are melting, polar bears are dying, and there seems to be no escape. 

                                        

graphic by Kailey Gee

Many young people these days feel as though Boomers are unsympathetic to life in the modern age as a young adult. It’s not hard to see why they hold this opinion when our newest generations are being called entitled “snowflakes”: afraid of hard work and afraid to grow up. This is not only not true, it’s insulting. When more and more Millenials are working multiple jobs to make ends meet and pay off the 1.5 trillion dollars of student loan debt that adults in America currently owe, the idea that young people are afraid of hard work is frankly ridiculous. 

The other frustration for Gen Zers and Millennials is that climate action and other social movements continue to be ignored or criticized by older generations. This is astonishing considering that Boomers were once the faces of the counterculture movement. However, now that their children and grandchildren are doing the same, they have become “the man” they fought so hard against.

As a dismissal to these condescending comments and a retort to the elders who cannot be reasoned with, “OK, Boomer” was born.  

Some have called it ageism (defined as prejudice or discrimination based on age). If this is true, then Boomers are hypocrites to think that they aren’t ageist as well—calling young people snowflakes is certainly derogatory. But it isn’t ageism, it’s an eye-roll. It’s an exasperated sigh directed at adults who are painfully out of touch.

The idea that young people are afraid of hard work is frankly ridiculous.”

— Sumner Wallace '20

This is not to say that Boomers deserve all of the hate they’ve been getting. Nor is it appropriate to use “OK, Boomer” on anyone who appears to be older. Gen X (1965-1980) often gets tacked onto the Boomers, and occasionally even older Millennials as well. Lumping these generations together is dumb because 30 year olds and 60 year olds are not at all the same, and the overuse takes away the effect of the come-back.

It’s also not fair to blame Boomers for every poor decision that has led to our current problems. Society and politics are not the same as they were in 1946, so we cannot apply our present standards to the past. Every generation has inherited the problems of the generation before it, and in that sense, Gen Z and Millenials are not special. 

While I don’t think the steps my generation has made towards pushing action and not taking sh*t from anybody who makes excuses are mistaken, I do wonder if we could try harder to take the high road and maintain civility between the generations. Instead we’re making bank on “OK, Boomer” merch and receiving our daily doses of comedy from the bazillion memes that have populated Twitter and the internet as a whole. 

That being said, what happened to adults acting like adults? Gen Z is busy fixing its future, meanwhile the older generations are busy chastising us. If Boomers feel disrespected, then they should try harder to earn our respect by taking the challenges our generation faces seriously.