OK, boomer—but let’s talk, millennials
Surprise, surprise: Millennials and Gen Z-ers are fed up with Baby Boomers. Though various generations have been arguing forever as to who’s better and who’s ruining everything, this may be the first time that the younger set have an unofficial war cry: “OK, boomer.”
It’s a phrase used to shut down outdated views on anything, from gender issues to environmental conservation to K-pop. Can’t accept that humans are responsible for global warming? OK, boomer. Ranting about Instagram models? OK, boomer. Most famously, New Zealand lawmaker Chlöe Swarbrick dropped a well-placed “OK, boomer” on her older colleague who was heckling her while she was talking about climate change.
As a retort (or in millennial-speak, a clapback), this phrase is perfect. It’s crisp, it’s easy, and it’s effortlessly succinct. But as a tool in conversation, “OK, boomer” is useless. More than useless, it’s damaging, because it cuts off what might otherwise be honest, illuminating discussions, and feeds the general resentment that each age group feels for the other.
I may be overthinking an internet meme here. If it turns out that “OK, boomer” is merely one of those fads that will soon be buried in the graveyard of the forgotten (right beside “Pen Pineapple Apple Pen” and “on fleek”), then all is well. But if “OK, boomer” is a sign that younger generations are unwilling to listen to opinions they don’t agree with, even when those opinions have merit, then we need to sit down and talk.
Instead of alienating our older folks for not getting on with the times, or for directly contradicting what we think is right, why don’t we try engaging them in conversation?
I myself have written about how Filipino millennials and Gen Z-ers are diverging from some beliefs that our parents and grandparents have tried to instill in us. It might be the belief that depression isn’t real, that contraceptives lead to promiscuity, or that one has to be married by age 30. I’ve cited generational differences multiple times; it’s often helpful to understand history and society by sorting them into generations (shared experiences, common struggles, etc).
But every once in a while, I find individuals whose ideas and attitudes are surprisingly refreshing for their age group. My grandmother keeps asking me “Are you going to get married and have kids soon?”—which is exactly the kind of question you’d expect from an 88-year-old elder. But then she always follows it up with “You don’t need to marry. Just adopt a child.”
This to me is interesting, partly because I, a millennial, am agreeable to it, and partly because it’s unexpected from a Traditionalist—a person born roughly between 1925 and 1945. Traditionalists, also called the Silent Generation, are characterized as conformists, abiding by rules and aiming for stability, having grown up in a time of war. Hearing my Traditionalist grandma’s advice to have a very nontraditional family is like finding a smartphone in a room full of typewriters.
I’ve heard it said that the Silent Generation was seething beneath the surface. They may have conformed because war and economic turmoil pressured them to, but on the inside, their new sentiments were bubbling—sentiments that soon became movements such as women’s liberation. Maybe my Lola isn’t such a rare outlier. Maybe, when it comes down to the meat of things, younger generations aren’t so different from their grandparents after all.
We may also look at it in terms of cycles. Generational author Amy Lynch explains it like this: “If we look at history, we find that generations actually cycle. For example, an intensely passionate generation is always followed by a cynical one, and a cynical gen is always followed by a practical, fix-it gen, and so forth.” In other words, each generation responds to the shortcomings of its predecessor. It may seem like an endless clash—like we’re fated to always be arguing against our parents—but it’s really a continuous balancing.
Traditionalists, boomers, millennials, Gen Z—we all want the world to be a better place, though our different times have made us perceive it through different lenses. Today, Gen Y and Gen Z are turning the wheel. We’ve given names to real issues that were previously ignored; we’ve given voice to parties that were previously unheard. Let’s also have the courtesy to sit down and help our older folks catch up.
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