“OK, boomer” attacks a mindset, not a generation

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Elora Becker/The Occidental

You don’t believe in climate change? OK, boomer.

You think “OK, boomer” is the new n-word? OK, boomer.

Zoomers — members of Generation Z — created the “OK, boomer” meme on TikTok to point out the antiquated worldviews of older generations. The use of the meme ranges from jokes about boomers’ attitudes toward youth fashion to commentary about serious political issues. It began gaining popularity in January 2019 and received media attention after a millennial lawmaker used it in a November climate change discussion in New Zealand parliament.

As a zoomer, I am entering a world with desperate problems that older generations contributed to but refuse to solve, including wealth inequality and an urgent climate crisis. Considering the immediate problems zoomers face, we want meaningful change, and we do not have time to waste on arguing.

Facts don’t win arguments, especially intergenerational ones. I could spend all day explaining that young people are suffering because we are inheriting a destroyed economy, but boomers would still blame our economic problems on the money we spend on avocado toast. And no amount of scientific evidence will sway climate change deniers. The best we can do is say “OK, boomer” to dismiss ignorant arguments and then continue to work toward our goals.

This movement is not ageist. Pew Research defines baby boomers as anyone born between 1946 and 1964. But “OK, boomer” refers to a mindset that people as young as 30 can hold and that is not necessarily held by all older people. Bernie Sanders is the perfect example of an older person who is fighting alongside the younger generation. “OK, boomer” is not about making fun of people for being old; it’s about calling out harmful behavior that is perpetuated by any older generation.

The animosity between old and young generations is nothing new. During the 1960s, teenage boomers rebelled against their parents too. “Don’t trust anyone over 30” was a popular boomer mantra. Older generations were not fond of boomers either. In 1976, journalist Tom Wolfe, a member of the Silent Generation, dubbed boomers the “Me Generation,” claiming they were narcissistic attention-seekers. To people who grew up during the Great Depression, boomers, who inherited post-war prosperity, had life easy. Decades later, boomers now claim millennials are narcissistic attention-seekers who have life easy.

Members of older generations tend to be the ones who have talk shows and write editorials in major newspapers. But as the first generation to grow up with the internet, we have a platform to express our ideas too. While boomers succeeded in making “millennial” a pejorative term, they have not been able to do the same for zoomers. Zoomer-dominated sites like TikTok allow us to control our narrative. Because we have our own space to express our ideas, it is easy to brush off criticism from boomers and focus on concerns for the future.

Boomers inherited a rich, post-war world, enjoyed government subsidies and benefited from affordable education. Yet many claim young people are greedy for asking for decent health care and affordable college. I will graduate college with mountains of student debt, and the prospect of owning a home in the next decade seems like a pipe dream because housing prices have skyrocketed over the past 50 years.

Senior Vice President of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Myrna Blyth revealed a lack of concern for young people’s problems when she joked, “OK, millennials. But we’re the people that actually have the money.” Blyth’s retort is upsetting because she disregards our problems on the basis that her generation is wealthier. She also does not consider the role her generation played in creating the wealth disparity.

In addition to creating economic turmoil, boomers, who control Congress and run the corporations responsible for pollution, have failed to make progress to counter the proven effects of climate change. Some deny climate change exists at all. They are concerned with the costs of transitioning to clean energy, but young people are the ones who will pay the price as the climate crisis worsens and affects our health.

While boomers have refused to act, zoomers have been doing everything in their power to fight climate change: marching in the Global Climate Strike, making environmentally conscious decisions and supporting candidates who prioritize the climate.

I’m proud of zoomers and the “OK, boomer” movement. It has elicited negative responses from boomers, which is to be expected. Some will view young people as adversaries no matter what we do. We can’t be discouraged, and we have to keep fighting.

I urge boomers not to take offense to “OK, boomer.” Zoomers don’t hate all boomers, but we’re frustrated that some don’t care about our future. I’ve heard boomers complain that young people are lazy and apathetic. Now we’re telling them that we’re not. We care about our future, and we are willing to work for it — even if it means hurting their feelings.

Jenna Fabris is an undeclared first year. She can be reached at jfabris@oxy.edu.