‘Ok, Boomer’ was a leading candidate for meme of the year in 2019, but in truth it resonated with younger generations more than it had any right to. Yes, it’s funny to turn Boomer into a venomous word and throw it at those who seem out of touch with society, but it resonated because it gave disillusioned generations a simple rallying cry to use against the generation that makes up most of the ruling class. In the end it worked to great effect, especially if the picture below is anything to go by.
Now Baby Boomers, who have long been the generation in charge, are increasingly viewed as jokes. Journalists like Bob Lonsberry equating his hurt ego to institutional racism and videos of ‘Karens’ demanding to see managers after being asked to wear a mask are a couple of cases in point. They don’t enrage us, they entertain us, because they’ve become the crazy old coots. A dying breed.
With the BLM protests spreading worldwide we’re actually seeing a notable change in long-held truths and institutions. The dismantling of the Minneapolis police department was massive worldwide news and will have lasting impacts, thanks to a generation of BIPOC activists and their white allies standing up and saying they’ve had enough.
I should make it clear though,I don’t think you can say that any one generation is worse than another. Each generation simply has a different role to play. The dirty secret is that each generation is reacting to the generation before. One generation instigates war, the next are obsessed with peace, then the next takes peace for granted and soon enough we’re back to war. The Baby Boomers aren’t evil, nor are Millennials inscrutable heroes, we were all simply born into a cycle that has been repeating itself for centuries.
This is not to say that there haven’t been 60+ year old’s marching for black lives or that those marching with tiki torches in Virginia were all fogies. But as a generality, these types of societal changes are—more often than not—split down generational lines. In fact, the last time we had a chat on this blog I talked about history and its cyclical nature. The same theory applies to generations.
I previously talked of the Black Death leading to the Italian Renaissance, and we see history continuing to repeat itself. Over decades the bubonic plague chipped away at the societal fabric of the Italian peninsula and while corrupt monarchs and clergymen hid in their halls, the working class suffered and died. The people grew distrusting of those in charge, and suddenly The Vatican, once the greatest stronghold of faith in the western hemisphere was no longer infallible. Replace priests with cops and we start to see some parallels.
If you examine the generations that were involved in the changes leading up to the Renaissance, it’s clear that the same thing is being mirrored once again. Those born into stability became decadent and self-indulgent, while those born into societal unravelling rose to amend the missteps of a previous generation and grow into something greater.
This cycle is important for human development and societal change. Orson Wells in The Third Man says it better than I ever could:
"In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
Whether it’s America, Italy or Australia, change is often marinated in conflict, and conflict comes with the territory when you’re talking about generations. Of course, generations aren’t a scientific measurement and no two people can ever agree on exact start and end years (I myself am either a millennial or Gen Z depending on who you ask). But generational analysis can be an amazing tool in the cultural anthropologists toolbelt.
Whether it’s race relations, class inequality, or climate change it’s become clear to the up and coming generations of this world that Baby Boomers are no longer equipped to deal with the major societal issues coming down the pipeline. So, with a hearty Ok, Boomer, we invite all the Abbotts, Palmers, Pells and Murdochs to step aside and let a new generation have a crack. Thanks for nothing, we’ve got it from here. (Special shoutout to Scomo who missed the Baby Boomer cut-off. You’re a Boomer in spirit).
In the end, Ok, Boomer gave voice to the frustration at being locked out of decisions that materially affect the rest of young people’s lives—made for them by people who won’t live long enough to see the results of those decisions come to pass. Rather than see it as an unendurable insult, understand that using humour and satire to lampoon the reactionary and out-of-touch are the same weapons that have been used since time immemorial. And a signal that the youth are ready and willing take up the reins to build a bolder, better new world.
Oscar Hammond, Junior Copywriter @ 50 Crates