By Alex Recharge-Goldfish
A common pastime among old white people who have never been victimized in their lives, along with voting for reactionaries and playing mahjong, is comparing words they don’t like to racial slurs. The latest example of this discordant verbal screeching is a tweet by Bob Lonsberry, who is apparently a talk radio personality from New York--I hadn’t heard of him, and I’m assuming you haven’t either unless you’re a member of the white-male-over-60-with-a-victim-complex-and-an oversized-car-demographic. As Lonsberry tweeted on Monday: “Boomer is the n-word of ageism. Being hip and flip does not make bigotry ok, nor is a derisive epithet acceptable because it is new.”
He is, of course, referring to the trend of young people responding to the characteristically out-of-touch comments made by people born before 1964 by saying “Ok boomer.” This never fails to provoke a good deal of outrage on the people who are on the receiving end of the retort, as is intended.
Lonsberry’s verbal flailing resulted in a burst of attention to the wave of Ok-Boomerism. Even though he deleted the tweet, which seems somewhat pointless since the cat was already out of the bag by that point, Lonsberry ignited a debate about the phrase, and whether these boomers really deserve all the snark they’re getting. Many media folks, mostly boomers or near-boomers themselves, dismissed it as the product of an overly-salty internet culture dominated by “memelords” and those guys who claimed to be Microsoft tech support and instead raided your bank account.
As a member of the overly salty internet culture , I’d like to briefly explain the logic of Ok-Boomerism.
Firstly, a few explanations. The context in which the phrase is used can vary, but mostly it’s as a response to statements made that are characteristic of a sort of condescension prevalent in how members of the older generations interact with the young. For example, a sexagenerian Facebook user complaining about how “All kids these days know how to do is charge their phones, eat hot chips, and complain!” would be greeted with a long thread of “ok boomer”s. Also, a caveat: I am not saying that all people born between 1945 and 1964 are condescending and/or responsible for the world’s problems. However, it is beyond doubt that the attitude of many older people towards the younger is tepid at best and disgusted at worst--this exemplified by the cornucopia of tyrades one will find against the supposed flaws of today’s young people plastered all over the internet by those who think things were better in their day. I do not have a hatred of the elderly. My quarrel is with the people who act as if people my age are a throng of nihilistic Instagram addicts--these are many people of a certain age, but not all. If you were born before 1965 and believe in climate change, want to do something about it, and don’t think that everyone born after 1990 is a hedonistic droid perpetually plugged into the i-Moron collective, then you will not be ok boomer’d. The term isn’t a blank-check slander against any old person; boomer is a mentality more than anything.
Part of the appeal of the phrase “ok boomer” is that it can encapsulate so much justifiable derision in two words. If we gave voice to the full sentiment encapsulated in the phrase, it would probably go something like this:
“Ok boomer, thank you for your input. Thank you for your condescension. Have you ever considered that there are no ‘kids these days’ problems, there are ‘human’ problems? And the presumption that the younger generation is somehow morally bankrupt makes no sense--particularly considering the rampant hypocrisy in most critiques older people make of the young. Have you ever considered the hypocrisy of deriding all these ‘triggered millennials’ while yourself becoming triggered the minute an employee at the department store tells you ‘happy holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas?’ Have you considered that generation’s anger about political and social issues may be justified, when you gave us a world in which environmental destruction, inequality, war, death, suffering, starvation, racism, and militarism run riot? And that the whole time you shut your eyes and did nothing about it, preferring instead to complain about Obama wearing a tan suit or how the government wants a fraction of your income to pay for roads and schools for people less fortunate than you? That maybe the reason we are disaffected is not because we all suddenly caught the nihilism bug from those damn phones and those damn video games, but because we live in a turbulent society? That our phones and video games and memes are a form of escapism from problems whose creation we had no hand in? We will have to face the reality of climate change which threatens the world as we know it. We will have to face gun violence and massive inequality and institutionalized racism; problems that people of past generations either encouraged or did nothing to stop. We will be living in the world you made, facing the consequences of the actions you took, paying for every mistake and trying to right the wrongs--and that is not easy. Ok boomer, ok.”
But that would take too long and is somewhat unwieldy to say in conversation, so we just say “Ok boomer.”