“OK, boomer” may sound to oldies like many innocuous responses from young people. Maybe you’ve seen a young person wearing a T-shirt that says “OK, boomer” and thought “how sweet. They’re honoring their elders!”
Nope. Don’t be naïve. They are giving us a verbal middle finger. Millennials and Gen Z are at war with us over climate change, financial inequality, student loan debt, and anything we say they consider stupid or condescending.
The provocation for this generational war appears to have been a video of a white-haired man in a baseball cap and polo shirt declaring that “the millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome; they don’t ever want to grow up.” It went viral on TikTok, whatever that is. Oh, yeah, yet another social media platform.
Then, a 25-year-old member of the New Zealand Parliament was heckled by an older colleague during her speech about the need for stricter climate change policy. Without missing a beat, she replied “OK, boomer” before continuing her remarks. The news media blew up.
The reaction? Hundreds of products are now for sale, some with the tagline “OK, boomer, have a terrible day.” The sales success of these products indicates that the sentiment resonates with young people, who will be the first to have a lower quality of life than the generation before them.
Generational warfare is nothing new. Heck, remember when we were warned not to trust anyone over 30?? And, remember that in our youth, we fought against the establishment and the Vietnam War. We were in the streets fighting for civil rights and equal rights for women. Oh, and, of course, there was the sexual revolution. We fought for contraception and Roe vs. Wade. We rocked to Elvis and the Beatles, who have influenced generations of musicians. We smoked dope and are delighted marijuana is finally legal in many states. CBD oil is a must for oldies.
Instead of declaring war, kids, how about some civil discourse? If you want to make a difference, we suggest you improve your communication skills. You reportedly struggle with face to face communication and are the loneliest generation. You lack important socialization skills. You spend a lot of time gaming, alone. (Playing with avatars doesn’t count as real interaction.) Awkward!
You reportedly have difficulty listening, know more about Minecraft and Marvel than your jobs and friends, and have little knowledge of geography (where is Suriname?), world history (what was the Cuban Missile Crisis?), and current affairs (who are the Kurds?)
And, generally, you don’t vote. Millennials continue to have the lowest voter turnout of any age group. Surveys do show an uptick in young people casting ballots; keep it up if you want to make a difference.
We need to stop talking past each other and work together to address the environment and income inequality, and promote a more hopeful future for young people. We’re not all out-of-touch, unhip people who still think it should be 1979 and anything called a “phone” should be bolted to a wall. We recognize that student loan debt alone is prohibiting young people from getting married, having kids, and buying a house.
However, if you get smacked with an “OK, boomer” response and have had enough, don’t repeat an AARP executive’s admonition: “OK, millennials. But we’re the people that actually have the money.” AARP apologized for that snarky response. Maybe respond with the famous line from the movie Taxi Driver: “You talkin’ to me?” Robert DeNiro says it while looking at himself in the mirror, imagining what he would do if he were confronted by a bad guy.
So, our Wrinkled Wisdom for today? Don’t take the “OK, boomer” attack personally. Generational warfare is the norm. We made a difference in our youth. Maybe it’s time to come out of retirement and become activists again. We need to think about our kids and grandkids. We need to take millennial and Gen Z concerns seriously. And, face it, we need them—to help us adapt to constantly changing technology and to fix our phones.