“Ok Boomer”; Boom Goes the Boomers By James Reed

     Talking about my generation, the boomers, I was going to add a link to the band The Who singing, but suddenly the thought of seeing such a boomer band made me have an attack of GERDS, so I did not. Still, the young generation is getting mighty sore about the boomers, who had bled the planet dry. If there was global warming, which there is not, these are the people to blame and shame:

“For a long time now, the cross-generational dialogue between baby boomers and millennials has been built atop several recurring themes. Boomers — the generation born roughly between 1946 and 1965 — scoff that millennials expect “participation trophies” for doing the bare minimum. Millennials say boomers are “out of touch.” Millennials (born roughly between 1980 and 1996) are “killing” once-stable industries like cereal by saving money, spending less, and “eating avocados.” Boomers have “mortgaged the future” in exchange for hoarding wealth while also voting to end necessary social programs. Millennials would rather complain about student debt than buckle down, work hard, and “get a job.” If anything, teens have been subjected to even harsher rhetorical maligning. Members of “Generation Z,” born roughly between 1996 and 2015, are portrayed as addicted to their phones, “intolerant” of their elders, and stuck in a “different world” thanks to the internet.

With all this repetitive back-and-forth — seriously, there are bingo cards — it’s no wonder the most polarizing meme of the year is a two-word dismissal of the whole debate. “OK Boomer,” which floated into the internet mainstream and rapidly gained traction this fall, is an attempt by millennials and Gen Z to both encapsulate this circular argument and reject it entirely. “OK Boomer” is meant to be cutting and dismissive. It suggests that the conversation around the anxieties and concerns of younger generations has become so exhausting and unproductive that the younger generations are collectively over it. “OK Boomer” implies that the older generation misunderstands millennial and Gen Z culture and politics so fundamentally that years of condescension and misrepresentation have led to this pointedly terse rebuttal and rejection. Rather than endlessly defend decisions stemming from deep economic strife, to save money instead of investing in stocks and retirement funds, to buy avocados instead of cereal — teens and younger adults are simply through. The conversation isn’t through with them, however, not least because the rise of “OK Boomer” has provoked concurrent backlash from baby boomers, many of whom have misread the meme, and feel it is motivated mainly by ageism. But that misreading also feeds the meme — because baby boomers failing to understand the point of “OK Boomer” is, well, the point of “OK Boomer.” Don’t get it twisted. It’s important to understand that what really lies behind “OK Boomer” is increasing economic, environmental, and social anxiety, and the feeling that baby boomers are leaving younger generations to clean up their mess.

“OK Boomer” is an instantly relatable cry of frustration to many people
The earliest mentions of “OK Boomer” can be traced as far back as 2015 on 4chan, where the phrase was used as an insult by the forum’s anonymous users, aimed at other anons who seemed out of touch. But the phrase really took off this year on TikTok, as a rebuttal to angry rants by baby boomers about kids these days. A song by Peter Kuli & Jedwill known as “OK BOOMER!” — the verses define boomers as racist, fascist Trump supporters with bad hair — became a popular song choice for TikTok sing-along videos this fall. Teens on the platform used the song’s intro and chorus as a rebuttal to annoying run-ins they’d had with seniors policing or judging their behaviour:

Sometimes, the complaints teens are referencing in these videos are typical generational conflicts. But more often, they’re politicized, with teens reacting to adults who are judging things like their gender expression, their financial choices, their approach to job-hunting, or their leisure activities. The broader background to all of this resentment is the perceived irony that while boomers nitpick and judge younger generations for their specific choices, it’s the boomers’ own choices that created the bleak socioeconomic landscape that millennials and Gen Z currently face. “Everybody in Gen Z is affected by the choices of the boomers, that they made and are still making,” teen entrepreneur Nina Kasman told the New York Times in October. “Those choices are hurting us and our future. Everyone in my generation can relate to that experience and we’re all really frustrated by it.”
“[T]he two words [OK Boomer] feel downright poetic after years of hearing my generation blamed for ‘killing’ everything from restaurant chains to department stores to relationships,” wrote Grist’s Miyo McGinn in early November, “even as so many of the challenges people my age face — student loan debt, general economic instability, and, of course, a rapidly warming planet — are the result of short-sighted decisions made by earlier generations.”

This broader socioeconomic aspect seems to have gotten lost as the meme spread throughout the mainstream, however. Many people became aware of “OK Boomer” through the October New York Times article, which focused on teens who had taken the meme offline and were turning it into merchandise and fashion statements. Almost immediately, people rushed to sell “OK Boomer” merchandise and attempted to trademark the phrase, and brands began to use it on social media — completely missing the inherent critique of capitalism that the meme enfolds, which led to more eye-rolling. But millennials who mocked the instant trendiness of “OK Boomer” were drowned out by the meme’s intended targets: boomers. Some began claiming that “boomer” was an ageist slur equivalent to “the n-word,” while others merely discouraged the use of “boomer” in the workplace. Media outlets opined that the meme was “dividing generations.” Gen Xers offered the “both sides” take. In the Washington Post, history professor Holly Scott reminded everyone that boomers were once activists too.”

     We will see. When the boomers are needing to go into nursing homes, I would not be surprised to see an active euthanasia Act passed by a Gen Z parliament, as payback to this most selfish of generations, to reduce medical expenses, of course. In the end, everybody is going to get what they deserve, as everything comes out in the wash.



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Tuesday, 16 July 2024

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