Attacking older generations for not understanding the complaints of younger generations is nothing new. Baby boomers might remember a common saying about not being able to trust anyone over 30.
Based on recent events, it is painfully obvious that ageism is alive and well and trending across social media platforms using the dismissive phrase “Ok boomer” as a rally cry. If you visit TikTok, there are no shortage of references to this mantra used to blame and deride the baby boomer generation that is considered by many younger generations to be resistant to change.
The popularity of this phrase has not been lost on opportunists seeking to make money off of disgruntled Millennials and Gen Xers. You can buy hoodies and t-shirts with the “Ok Boomer” slogan printed across the front. The New York Post published a report stating that a designer earned an impressive $10,000 by selling sweatshirts with the words “OK BOOMER” emblazoned on the front and ending with a rather negative sentiment, “Have a terrible day.” Ouch.
Complaint #1: Baby boomers did not prioritize environmental issues and dropped the ball on climate change.
There’s no way to sugarcoat the complaints now being levied against boomers. They pack a punch since there is always some bits of truth to be found when blame is placed on previous generations for current problems. People in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are blaming boomers for many problems, with the loudest of these claims aimed at this generation for not acting decisively to prevent global warming and the destruction of the planet.
In defense of boomers on this count, Al Gore is a baby boomer who has done his part. As founder and chair of The Climate Reality Project and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, his contributions in the fight for environmental issues is remarkable and worthy of respect from all generations.
Granted, it is difficult to watch one devastating fire after another assault the western United States without experiencing a pang of guilt about the role boomers played in them. Until the majority of politicians make climate change a priority, there will be no substantive progress. Environmental concerns are warranted.
Complaint #2: Boomers are wasteful and buy things without worrying about recycling or sustainability.
Painting all baby boomers with the same broad brush is always a mistake. As a generation coming into power during the 80s and 90s when excess was celebrated and movies like Wall Street were blockbusters that seemed to applaud the sentiments of the late Malcolm Forbes, whose quote, “He who dies with the most toys wins,” became a sort of mantra that justified greed and excess.
While it is far too easy for younger generations to embrace these popular images, any critical Millennial who chooses to so some research will find evidence that boomers came of age when the Clean Air Act was passed. Boomers also started the first Earth Day. We had paper drives at our schools and helped pioneer recycling!
Under the watch of boomers, History.com reports that recycling rates have grown from 10% in 1980 to 29% in 2000, to more that 35% in the year 2017. This improvement decreased the amount of waste filling up landfills from 94% to 52%, as measured from 1960 to 2017.
Complaint #3: Millennials blame Baby Boomers for harsh economic realities and a grim personal financial outlook.
Millennials that are now between the ages of 25 and 40, have suffered disproportionately from financial insecurity beginning with the Great Recession and as ongoing trends related to financial security, earnings potential and wealth accumulation leave them less wealthy than boomers were at their age. Specifically, New America reports that young adult workers today were found to earn 20% less than Baby Boomers did in 1989 while building up only half as much wealth.
The Millennials were the first generation to effectively be less well off than their parents, which has always been a major tenet of the American Dream. Contributing factors that influence this mindset are claims that there are fewer good-paying jobs, that college costs are too high and don’t guarantee a good job after graduation. When you add to this equation the fact that there is little loyalty between employers and employees, it is easy to understand why this younger generation feels shortchanged and uncertain.
Complaint #4: Baby boomers are clueless about technology and aren’t capable of leading anymore.
As a youth-oriented society, ageism is a fact of life that is ingrained in our culture. Boomer bashing was inevitable as younger generations roll their eyes at boomers that struggle with the gadgets that their children and grandchildren master with ease.
While boomers look back wistfully at their youth, longing for the power and passion associated with those early decades when life seemed to be very black and white based on a naivete born of less experience and the blinders of youth, it becomes easy to understand ageism and the impatience Millennials and Gen Xers feel. The adage about youth being wasted on the young comes to mind.
While technology holds many answers for the future, it also creates just as many problems. Unfortunately, younger generations will face the fallout of Artificial Intelligence and laid off workers who no longer fit into the world from an experiential standpoint, but still need to feed and house their families.
Most Baby boomers are aware of the problems faced by their children and grandchildren.
As a generation, it is easy to grasp the problems, but can be difficult to decide on solutions, especially with so many politicians incapable of coming together for the common good as they cater to donors instead of constituents.
There is certainly enough blame to go around. But, blaming boomers or any generation for all that is wrong in the world does nothing to encourage progress. Opening dialogs with other generations offers the hope boomers need to pass on to younger generations.