OK Boomer.

okboomer2

Surely you’ve seen it online or heard people using it.  It’s inescapable.

“OK Boomer” is a recent viral meme that serves as a sarcastic taunt a younger person uses against a person of a certain age (who may not actually be a Boomer, just simply  older than a Millennial) when the younger person feels that the older person is being condescending, judgmental, unempathetic (to the Millennial’s financial woes), or just plain wrong.

A comment I saw on Twitter today perfectly illustrates the reason why “OK Boomer” resonates with Millennials (and many Gen Xers too).

Presumed Boomer (explaining why he/she hates the term “OK Boomer”):  I freakin’ HATE it. With age comes wisdom, Millennials. Your insolence is regarded as immaturity and ignorance. But I would expect no less from a generation with MUCH to learn about EVERYTHING.

The inevitable retort?

Presumed Millennial:  OK Boomer!

I have to admit, even as a butt end Boomer myself (who all too often sees the first two thirds of my own generation as having ruined everything for the last third I’m a part of), I can relate to the retort more than the complaint.

And yet, as a mostly unwilling member of this disliked generation, I can still understand why the term would rankle those of a certain age, who have called it ageist, petty, and insulting.   It puts us in a box.   Like all stereotypes, it assumes we are all the same.   We are not all against Millennials.  We do not think they are all spoiled, entitled, and only care about the next Selfie they take.   Some of us actually can relate to them and are empathetic to their plight in today’s world which has kicked out all the supports from underneath them.  And believe it or not, some of us are struggling too, especially those who, like me, are edging close to the cusp of Gen X.    As for Gen X?  They just get kind of  lost in the maelstrom.  But they were always kind of ignored anyway.    I have heard “OK Boomer” being used against people in this generation too.   Apparently, to some Millennials, anyone over age fifty (or maybe even forty) is a Boomer.

 

okboomer

One of the gazillion and one “OK Boomer” memes.

 

“OK Boomer” is not undeserved.   While OF COURSE there are good Boomers who don’t treat younger generations like a candiru infestation (make sure you have a strong stomach before clicking on this link), stereotypes always contain a grain of truth, which is why they get started in the first place.    Sure, individual Boomers have done great things (and have contributed great things to the arts, especially music),  but let’s be honest.  I don’t think the Boomer generation on the whole has done much good in the world.   That’s because of their collective narcissism, lust for power, and tendency to be judgmental of others who don’t think just like them.    They also tend to be extremely religious, to the point of zealotry.  Being religious is not itself a bad thing (in fact it can be a good thing),  but when a zealot tries to push their religion on others as the only correct way to believe, or worse, tries to legislate it,  it becomes cultlike and that it is definitely a very bad thing.  And religious zealotry and cultish behavior is definitely one of the biggest problems America is dealing with right now.

Boomers (as a generation) were treated like little gods by the adults around them when they were growing up, and they thrived under a good economy, an optimistic national mood,  and the US at the height of its power and influence in the world.    Now, on their way out the door, they’re making sure they take all their toys with them and leave behind a scorched earth that the young will have to fix, if it even can be fixed.

That’s why Millennials (and Xers) are so angry.    So, while the phrase “OK Boomer” is slightly annoying, I can’t really take issue with it.

 

8 thoughts on “OK Boomer.

  1. I didn’t know about this “OK Boomer” thank until yesterday. OK. Color me clueless. I read the article and laughed my head off. I just thought it was a great joke. I was inured to hurt in my narcissistic boomer self-love. Boomers rock. That is self-evident. I was even gonna get a t-shirt until I watched a Bernie speech and saw a chat going on in the background where “OK, Boomer!” was being said in earnest by chatters. I was appalled. Not Bernie supporters! Aren’t we above that shit? Don’t we understand how the 1% is trying to set the generations against each other? Well, suddenly, that phrase is not so funny. I guess I’ll have to write a blog too. Thanks, Lucky. Keep a look out on my Soapbox blog for Boomers Rock.

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  2. My father is on the young end of the Silent Generation. And my mother is on the older end of the Boomer Generation. Neither of them identify as Boomers. But both of them, to my mind, fit the stereotypical profile of Boomers. As for my brothers and I, we are all GenXers. And I’m on the far edge of this generation, not many years shy of being a Millennial, as part of what some call the MTV Generation. I experienced the changes on a personal level. My second oldest brother graduated high school in 1990, the year I was a freshman. By the time I graduated in 1994, the policies in the school and the mood in the country had dramatically changed. I was old enough to know how different was the world that Millennials grew up in.

    Yet I also was the last wave of Americans who had clear memory of the world that came before. I spent my childhood in the Cold War. Prior to getting cable when I was in 11th grade, many of the tv shows I watched were reruns that Boomers and Silents watched when they were younger. On the other hand, I also have familiarity with many of the then new tv shows that shaped the Millennials’ experience. My closest childhood friend was a couple years younger than me and, as his family had cable earlier, he never saw any of the reruns and so is even closer to the Millennial culture. Being on the cusp gives me a sense of the contrast between the two periods. But Millennials aren’t familiar with that earlier American society, except as seen through nostalgic documentaries and entertainment, while Boomers and those even older have little sense of how much is now different.

    My psychological ties are closer to the Millennials. In many ways, I understand and sympathize more with them than even with older GenXers. My oldest brother graduated high school in the 1980s and that really was a different time than the 1990s, especially late ’90s as we headed into the Aughts. The world of my parents is one that I know of, but it was a world that had fully disappeared by the time I was an adult. Still, I understand why older generations are nostalgic. I grew up playing with kids in the neighborhood, often with little parental supervision. I rode my bicycle or walked to school, and I earned my own money with a newspaper route. On this level, my childhood was like that of my parents.

    My nieces and nephews, the generation following Millennials, have zero comprehension of a childhood of freedom, what I think of as simply a ‘normal’ childhood. The 1990s was the pivot point for cultural transformation. That decade was also the rise of right-wing media, the Clinton takeover of the Democrats, and the further neoliberalization of the economy. I feel sorry for kids these days, in so many ways. It really is a more difficult world and the “diseases of civilization” are particularly getting worse. There is now an obesity epidemic among not only children but also infants, and Type II diabetes that once was known as “adult onset” diabetes is now common among the young. That was another shift I lived through in my own youth, the full dominance of the high-carb industrial diet.

    Boomers don’t grasp how messed up the world has become. The younger generations simply inherited it. And they are being hit with the problems while still kids. Millennials and those following them are dealing with the kinds of challenges that no generation before was faced with. Some things have improved, such as lead toxicity rates having dropped since what was seen with GenXers, but it’s hard to feel optimistic. All that older people have to worry about is that their savings, pensions, Medicare, and social security will hold out until they die. All the problems they caused or contributed to will be someone else’s problem. Few Boomers, especially on the older end, seem capable of fully appreciating this. And this is why the young say, “OK Boomer”.

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    • Thanks for your interesting take on the generations and your place among them. I never thought of you as being so close to the Millennial border.

      There’s a great book by William Strauss and Neil Howe called Generations and it describes every generation going back to America’s earliest beginnings and the late middle ages. They believe in a cyclical model of history and generations. It’s quite interesting even if you believe history is mostly linear. They wrote another book, “The Fourth Turning,” which I really liked a lot and think makes a lot of valid points, but it’s considered conspiracy theory by some people. It doesn’t help that Steve Bannon was a big believer in Strauss and Howe’s turning theory. It’s still worth reading anyway though.

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      • Think of it this way. As I said, the 90s was the pivot point of change. Both last wave GenXers and first wave Millennials were teenagers in the 90s and so were shaped by the same culture and media, politics and conflicts of that pre-9/11 period.

        That is why these cuspers, in this commonality, are sometimes referred to as the MTV Generation. It was the time when MTV really did play music videos but also popular shows like Beavis and Butt-head, Daria, etc. The oldest Genxers didn’t have MTV as teenagers. And the younger Millennials only knew it after it had become something else.

        Look at the mid-90s when My So-Called Life was on tv and Kurt Cobain died. The cuspers in the two generations were overlapping in school. My GenX friend who is a couple years younger than me went to elementary school and high school with Millennials. It was the late-90s when the last GenXers and the first Millennials graduated from high school.

        What do GenXers who were teenagers in mid-to-late-90s have in common with GenXers who were teenagers in the late-70s-to-early-80s? Similarly, what do Millennials who started high school and maybe college before 9/11 have in common with Millennials whose earliest childhood memories were in the late Aughts and who came of age in the Obama era?

        Still, my identity is firmly as that of a GenXer. Like most of my peers, I was a latchkey kid with little supervision. I literally had a ‘latchkey’ on a string around my neck, since I came home after school to an empty house. And besides reruns, I grew up watching darkly violent Vietnam War movies and even more darkly violent movies portraying GenX children as evil psychopaths, monsters, and demon-worshippers. Good times!

        Yeah, I’m familiar with Strauss and Howe. I have the two books you mention. I also have the books their books on GenXers and Millennials. Their work has informed my own understanding. I was just watching some videos of Howe today.

        I’m likewise familiar with Bannon’s knowledge of generations theory. I watched his documentary about this topic back during the Obama administration. I didn’t know who Bannon was at the time, other than it was obvious he was a reactionary right-winger. That documentary was a preview for Bannon’s thoughts that would come to shape Trump’s campaign rhetoric.

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      • This kind of thing has been on my mind for a while now. I came across Strauss and Howe either in the late 90s or early Aughts. But it was just an interesting theory at the time.

        Even back then, it was clear we were entering a new era, besides it being a new millennium. The 2000 election was stolen and given to Bush by the Supreme Court. The first time in US history when a president was nominated by the Supreme Court. That was when I knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore. By the way, that was also the time period when Boomers became the majority of politicians in Washington DC.

        In the mid-to-late 90s, I used to listen to Art Bell’s talk show, Coast to Coast AM. It’s possible I heard Strauss and Howe interviewed by him. He had a wide variety of guests. That is when I became aware that China was a rising power. One of Bell’s guests argued that the Chinese people never forgot the Boxer Rebellion and that they held a grudge against the West. It made sense then and makes even more sense now.

        Much was going on in the world at the time. The anti-war movement was the largest in US and world history, and it had gotten that large before the Iraq War even started, but it didn’t stop the corporate media from beating the war drums and it didn’t stop both parties from pushing ahead with no concern about the fact that most Americans opposed it. If the stolen election hadn’t made it clear, that was proof that the US was not a democracy but a banana republic.

        Then there was the Occupy movement and the Tea Party movement. The Bush Administration was winding down and, following the 2008 recession, Obama was elected. I saw all that, but I could sense something else happening. It wasn’t only the demographic data I was familiar with from generations theory and surveys like Pew’s Beyond Red vs Blue. On an intuitive level, I could feel the gears of society clicking into place, as we shifted into some other gear. I could feel it and yet other people didn’t seem to notice it. I knew something was coming around the bend, whatever it was. That was many years before the 2016 presidential election.

        There were so many signs. One had to have been blind to not see them, so it seemed to me. And it had been developing for decades at that point. Yet Boomers were in power and they acted with their well known superficial and egotistic optimism, as if they were genius technocrats who would be able to steer the country away from looming disaster, that is assuming they even noticed the looming disaster. My GenX cynicism was unconvinced.

        How could one not sense the darkening mood of the American public that started at least as far back as the 1990s when the right-wing reactionary backlash first appeared in its present form (e.g., Fox News)? We’ve had decades to do something about this situation and Boomers wasted their time in power, pushing more of the same and worse, no matter which party was held sway. If not Trump, then something like him was inevitable.

        OK Boomer, indeed!

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      • Here is a thought. The pivot point I spoke of was the 1990s. But we could speak of a long 1990s that began with the winding down of the Cold War in the late 80s and the rise of the War on Terror in the early Aughts.

        People who spent many of the formative years of youth in that period are part of what is called the MTV Generation. This is why last wave GenXers, in some ways, have more in common with Millennials. And similarly, first wave GenXers have more in common with Boomers. For example, older GenXers listened to more classic rock than young GenXers. My teenage musical sensibilities, instead, were defined by 90s MTV that introduced me to Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, etc.

        There is another way of looking at this. Our teenage years define us and that is often what we remember the most, as that is when we become more aware of popular culture and the larger society. On the other hand, there is a good argument that it is what happens right before your teen years that shapes your most basic identity. So, if we go with the long nineties as I defined it, that period most powerfully influenced those who reached 12 years old during it. That definitely includes a lot of GenXers and a fair amount of Millennials as well.
        https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/generations-at-the-age-of-twelve/

        To speak of a generational divide, maybe what is being referred to is not so much a clear and simplistic distinction of 20 year-long cohorts. The label of ‘Boomers’ is shorthand for all older people, from the still living Silents to the earliest born GenXers. So, the label of ‘Millennials’ becomes the shorthand for everyone else who is younger. The meme “OK Boomers” evokes this sense of a broad generational clash, and this explains why GenXers get lost in the mix, as do Silents and GenZ.

        This maybe can be seen most clearly with the response to 9/11 terrorist attack. Obviously, it hit Millennials hard, whether they were teenagers at the time or were born around the time. It shaped the world before they reached adulthood. But younger GenXers weren’t so far off from this, in that many of them were barely out of high school and maybe still in college. Even for me in my early 20s, the War on Terror was something that came out of the adult world that I didn’t feel like I belonged to, partly because GenX was a lost generation that had little power. To my GenX sensibility, that whole long nineties was a stretch of lost years, an in-between period that ended with the 9/11 attack.

        Think how different of an experience 9/11 was for someone whose twelfth year of childhood was spent in the the post-WWII era of the late-40s and the few decades following. That terrorist attack was a defining moment for what came before and after, including when Americans of different ages became fully established as adults. The long nineties was when ‘adulting’ became increasingly complex and difficult, when problems worsened and crises loomed. The War on Terror gave a culmination to that, an indicator that something entirely different had emerged.

        Interestingly, 9/11 coincided exactly with the Boomers gaining political power and so they were in control of defining what the new era. Everyone younger simply had this forced upon them. Also, Boomers already were economically in better situation, as many of them had profited from the cheap costs and great benefits early in life, along with the economic boom in the 90s (at the same time in the 90s the GenXers were experiencing a recession that affected only them). Boomers are still the majority in power right now. The last couple of decades has been their majority rule, with a few older GenXers making their way into power. But now a new generation has reached an age to challenge Boomer hegemony.

        That is why there is suddenly a sense of intense clash in this moment. Younger Americans are feeling that the Boomers had their chance to make things right. They didn’t just fail but disastrously failed. Yet all the elites in both parties who are seeking the presidency are in their 70s, even a ‘youngster’ like Elizabeth Warren at 70 years old. Millennials and those who identify with them feel like its time to give another generation a chance. This includes young GenXers who have been forgotten about, the most lost of the Lost Generation. I’ll gladly throw my lot in with the Millennials, as we are the ones left with the job of cleaning up the mess.

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