“Ok, Boomer” Needs to Go
I’m sure that by now you’ve heard a young person use this phrase as a derisive response to a comment or action from an older person. As a college student, I hear this quite a bit, and it irritates me every time. This is the latest example of intergenerational rivalry, a phenomenon that I have always found troubling. It is human nature to ridicule members of different age groups; this is just another form of us-versus-them, a tendency that humans gravitate toward with incredible consistency. But I do think we are capable of overcoming such generation-based conflict. We are certainly getting better at detecting manifestations of the “othering” instinct when they cause serious problems, but antagonism between different generations does not have any overt harm, so people continue to engage in it without giving it a second thought. But the world would be a much better place if people realized that humans of all ages are fundamentally the same and that intergenerational warfare stemming from undue resentment only causes harm.
At this point, kids will use the phrase about anything, including silly things, as is the nature of a meme. The most frequently cited issue that inspires “ok, boomer” statements is related to the accusation that Boomers destroyed the environment and that our generation now has to pay the price. However, it does not make any sense to blame a generation of people for this problem. Most young people now make more or less the same decisions that baby boomers and members of Gen X made when they were our age, and if they were less responsible, it’s because they didn’t know the harm that it would inflict. The best that any of us can do is make decisions based on the information we have. It’s easy to pretend to be superior because the perspective of living in the modern world affords you the knowledge that people didn’t have 50 years ago. But that’s all it is: pretending. If you want to blame certain presidential administrations for making mistakes, that’s fine, but don’t blame ordinary people for living decent lives a few decades before you did the same thing.
This principle applies to the reverse scapegoating, as well. Older people blame younger people for everything, when in reality, we’re all the same. If they had grown up in the world that younger people grew up in, they would make identical decisions.
We need to stop blaming each other for the faults of the world and instead try to help each other to solve them. Because at the end of the day, most people want what is best for others and for the world, regardless of their age. In a time when every political issue inspires deep divisions that make it impossible to find solutions, we do not need this additional roadblock. Ostracizing the older generations is not only harmful to personal relationships but it also diminishes our ability to work together to find solutions to important issues.
Additionally, when Millennials and members of Gen Z use this term, it takes the place of an intelligent, reasoned argument against whatever it is that they are deriding, which would be far more helpful than simply hurling an overused slang term against anyone over the age of 35 for living their lives.
The term is often used ironically, which is a completely different scenario. Nowadays, anything can be a meme, which is great. But when it is used sincerely, it represents an overlooked problem in our society that needs to be addressed.