The phrase “OK, Boomer” should be taken more seriously than just any viral social media trend. These two words were enough to demolish the authority of an older member of New Zealand’s Parliament when a 25-year-old legislator used them in a climate crisis bill hearing. The flippant response to the ignorance and out-of-date tendencies of the Baby Boomer generation is timed right as GenZ-ers are reaching active voting age. This is a battle cry as millennials and Generation Z advocate for some of today’s largest humanitarian and environmental issues.
From the Washington Post to NBC News, journalists are arguing that “OK, Boomer” is a misdirected and unjust accusation. This interpretation only further proves the utility of the phrase. In no way should “OK, Boomer” be interpreted as finger-pointing and blame for all of today’s problems; rather it is simply a way for GenZ-ers to acknowledge their social responsibility. It is a collective eye-roll that implies “you obviously don’t get, so I guess I’ll take care of it myself.”
The fed-up younger generations have appealed to those in power long enough. Now, the attitude has shifted away from asking for help to exasperation that help is not provided. The Boomer argument, however, is one that paints Millennials and GenZers as helpless and “all-talk,” because the majority of the nation’s wealth lies in Boomer bank accounts.
This is exactly the point. Wealth creates power, which is why Millennials first asked for help from those with the loudest voices and the deepest pockets. Unfortunately for those green and optimistic young adults, those in power have chosen time and time again to ignore those pleas for action. Now, the youth are tired.
The collective exhaustion of the younger generations has fueled the fight for social justice and environmental policy. The generally outdated opinions of the Boomer generation now include the perception of “useless Millennials” and lazy kids. The world is an entirely different place now. It costs anywhere from a quarter to a half of a million dollars to get an undergraduate degree, and studies have shown that that is no longer enough for a successful professional career. While opportunities abound, so do barriers to entry. Technology and social media have developed an entirely new method of communication and psychological development. This all proves that there are many factors contributing to Boomers not “getting it.”
The issue lies less in those inherent differences, but in the unwillingness to reach a productive, cooperative point. While the younger generations call for action, it is clear that the Boomer’s priorities lie in protecting their wealth and conserving their ideals. “OK, Boomer” indicates a loss of respect for respect’s sake. While we are all generally raised to respect one another, it looks as though Gen-Z is doubting whether or not the Boomers have done much to earn or even maintain their respect.
Inés Eisenhour is a freshman majoring in political science.