Boomers have no defense against the retort: OK Boomer. An insightful Boomer observation about the closed-minded ignorance of a Gen Z member can be artfully deconstructed by a simple “Ok Boomer”. The more a Boomer tries to debate the issue, the more defenseless they are. “OK Boomer” is not a serious response to any point. Instead it casts what the Boomer has said into the category of harmless noise from an irrelevant fool. The noise he or she makes is Boomer noise, and thus not worth a reasoned refutation.
The generation that said “Don’t trust anyone over thirty” has only itself to blame. Now in their sixties and seventies, Boomers are reaping the bitter fruit of the doctrines of youth worship they propounded. They raised these younger generations, hovered over them like helicopters, and gave them all participation trophies. They assumed the newcomers, molded by the attentive care of Boomer parents, would be duly grateful. But they aren’t.
Generations so far unable to achieve much on their own have tired of listening to Boomers lecture them. Now with a cute phrase a Gen Z snowflake can relegate a troublesome Boomer to an inferior position, as someone who should be placated and not taken seriously.
However, at its core the declaration of “OK Boomer” is a defensive measure. It places a moat around the castle of self-doubt at the core of the Gen-Z psyche. There is a fear on all sides that too many of the younger generation are emotionally weak. How can they possibly measure up to the expectations and achievements of their Boomer elders? “OK Boomer” stems from the fundamental need of Generation Z persons to minimize, disparage, and erase the great accomplishments of the 60’s. With that insight, one can explain the drive to develop a new terminology that gives soaring accolades to the Gen-Z Social Justice Warriors for continuing to fight the epic battles those Boomers were unable to see through to victory.
To the SJWs, the Civil Rights movement didn’t do much: the battle against White Privilege remains. Really? In the 60’s, the Civil Rights movement fought and overcame legalized overt racial discrimination. The nation transformed from one in which segregation was the law to one in which segregation was illegal. The right to vote was guaranteed. Schools and many other institutions were desegregated. Laws were passed and government organizations were created to achieve equal treatment on the job. Mass movements were organized to fight for equal rights on busses and at lunch counters. Affirmative Action was implemented to make up for the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.
However, many from Generation Z live in denial and ignorance of the progress made advancing Civil Rights the 60’s. Instead they spend a lot of time magnifying the intersectional injustices faced by marginalized people. They are fighting to overthrow the bastions of “White Privilege”. They scour social media to find hidden racism and denounce it.
What they refuse to see is that the US no longer has de jure discrimination, that the big battles were already fought and won fifty years ago. Pockets of discrimination and injustice persist, and individuals are still subject to unfair treatment on account of race, but the legal remedies and the means to address such inequities have been put in place. GenZ members resent this framing as it relegates them to the role of putting the finishing touches on a grand achievement of the Boomer generation. They must knock down this achievement by several pegs. The SJW crowd desperately want to believe the US is a deeply racist country populated by rubes who have KKK robes in the closet. They throw charges of racism at everyone who doesn’t swear obeisance to their sensibilities.
Merit to the Woke Generation is based on a hierarchy of perceived or asserted victimhood that stems from skin color, religion, national background, sexual orientation, gender identification, and other characteristics important to the Woke. From their perspective, judging people by the content of their character is an outmoded ideal. Curiously, they often give little notice to the accomplishments of Black Americans, especially those who favor socially conservative values or who reject Left-wing politics. The enlightened SJWs reject the thought that evidence for progress can be found in the election and reelection of Barak Obama as President. They are often hesitant to admit their awareness of Affirmative Action programs. They say “Ok Boomer” when told there are large scale government programs to help Black Americans. Race-based reparations are needed they insist.
Imagine asking a group of college students, ages 20–22, if laws are needed to guarantee Blacks get equal pay for equal work or whether we need a law to give all citizens the right to vote regardless of race. They might all agree such laws are needed, and would, of course, resort to “OK Boomer” if told such laws have existed since the 1960’s.
You could chart analogous developments in the evolution of Feminism and Gay Rights movements into the MeToo and Transgender movements of today. Equal pay for equal work regardless of gender was made the law of the land in the 60s. Now the focus is on why the median wage of women is 70% of what it is for men. Many of the Woke don’t believe there a law mandating Equal Pay for Equal Work. If a Boomer explains such a law exists, that knowledge is met with “OK Boomer”.
The same is true about the environmental movement. The Clean Air Act was passed in 1963 and the Clean Water Act in 1972. The Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970 and the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973. But most members of Gen Z think the air and water can be polluted at will and they are unaware of the numerous species that have been saved. The more recent generations care little about clean air and water. Instead the younger citizens care about Climate Change and CO2 emissions. They incorrectly assert CO2 is a pollutant, but it isn’t. Our biosphere partners of the plant kingdom breathe it. The immediate threat of PCBs, Love Canal, toxic Superfund sites, and pollution has been replaced with a concern about climate model projections. To give their concerns more heft, the Woke generation now stresses that only a dozen years are left before it’s too late. They make demands and scream “how dare you”. If the Boomers think this is overstated hysteria, that doesn’t really matter. We must stop flying planes now. OK Boomer?
In many of these areas, some Boomers have the sense of a pendulum swinging too far. Sometimes those who led the movements of the Sixties do welcome the chance to keep the party going. But in other cases, they view the new causes as inimical to the progress previously made. Title 6 was passed in 1972 and provided opportunities for girls to participate in school sports. Now the Woke version of the movement champions Transgender participation in women’s sport. Not all female athletes or feminists agree. A sports star as great and renowned as Martina Navratilova finds it unfair to women.
What she says does not matter because … “OK Boomer”.
Beyond the specific political goals, there is a difference in sensibilities. Boomers feel the Woke pursue their politics with an unquestioned dogmatism quite at odds with the spirit of the 60s. The Woke don’t have teach-ins, peaceful sit-ins, free speech movements, or non-violent marches. The elder generation came of age in a culture that stressed doing your own thing, peace, tolerance, letting your hair grow long, and blowing your mind on far-out trips. Yes, there were violent revolutionaries and violent demonstrations, but many felt the violence was wrong. The tenor of the times favored exploring and living out personal inner truths. It was about helping one another and sharing food, drugs, and music. It was about righting wrongs and getting America to live up to its promises and ideals.
Many in Gen-Z live in a fear of exploring their own feelings and attitudes. They are afraid to express preferences, worried that they will be exposed as racists or sexists. They are ready to break into groveling apologies for imagined transgressions against the latest politically correct dogma. They have an inner Gestapo always on duty ferreting out enemies in their own mind and putting them on the rack. Vehemence and intolerance are key GenZ attributes. They insist Hate Speech must be prohibited and what is classified as Hate Speech keeps expanding. De-platforming is accepted, and many are sympathetic to Antifa beating up unarmed citizens in the streets. Too many of the Woke are looking for battles to prove their Wokeness. Many Gen Z males feel a central conflict, having been told from pre-school they are guilty of being members of a hated oppressive sex. Many Woke females reject the idea of bearing and raising children. The very act of having children is viewed as an act of betrayal in the struggle against Climate Change. Too many have lost faith in the future. For some, drugs and suicide are the way out.
Boomers don’t know what to do. They truly love their kids and grandkids and want to see them succeed. They are worried however, anxious that the next Generations are going astray. They are concerned their descendants won’t listen to the wealth of wisdom and advice Boomers have to give them. But the generations after them have had enough. They don’t want to hear what the Boomers have to say, even if it’s right, especially if it’s right. So, the Boomers are stuck. They can’t stop giving advice and can’t help feeling resentful at the dismissive way it is received. They are saddened to see their legacy of Civil Rights, individual freedom, environmental protection, and progress in many areas thrown away by and forgotten. Maybe a clever retort such as “Keep trying, Zero!” or “Very cute, Snowflake” would even the debate. But Boomers don’t want to perpetuate the argument or widen the gulf. They don’t really want a clever comeback. They have no defense against “OK Boomer”. They have only a slim hope the next generations will one day want to learn about what they did, and an even more ephemeral hope their progeny might be able to at least listen to them without throwing derisive retorts back in their faces.