Why the Outrage of the Younger Generations is Justified

Thomas Koon and Dominic Fanaris

Ever since a video of New Zealand politician Chlöe Swarbrick responding to fellow Parliament member Todd Muller’s jeering with “OK boomer” in November, the phrase has become a huge internet meme, getting attention from media outlets, becoming a popular hashtag on Tik Tok, and even getting its own song. 

The phrase has been polarizing, as it is adored by younger generations, while many of the “boomers” in question feel the phrase is harsh and hurtful, with conservative talk show host Bob Lonsberry even labelling “boomer” as “the N-word of ageism.” 

But is the newfound youth hostility towards boomers justified, or do they misunderstand the perspectives of the older generation? 

The phrase’s main purpose is to dismissively undermine the conservative and traditionalist beliefs often associated with the baby boomer generation, who were born between 1946 and 1964, and are currently 55-75 years old. It’s used by younger generations as a cutting, prompt response to what they see as nagging, out-of-touch worldviews. 

Many older people simply see the response as mindless hate from a generation that has been spoon-fed their entire lives, but in reality “OK boomer” is the result of years of repeated negative rhetoric towards young people and youth frustration on many issues that boomers stubbornly oppose them on. Young Americans with more awareness of social issues are constantly labelled as soft, and efforts to promote equity have been met with accusations of abandoning values of hard work and merit. There was no media outrage over young people being called “generational snowflakes,” so why the major upset over “OK boomer?”

One major issue younger generations are frustrated with boomers with is climate change. The phrase “OK boomer” itself skyrocketed to popularity over a parliamentary climate change discussion between New Zealand’s politicians. 

According to NASA, current trends in climate change will lead to continued rise in temperatures, more droughts and heat waves, more intense hurricanes, and complete loss of ice in the Arctic by 2050. Despite this seemingly catastrophic climate data, boomers are still less likely than millenials to be concerned about global warming. According to a May 2018 Gallup poll, only 55% of boomers state that they are concerned about climate change and believe global warming is caused by human activities, compared to 75% of those aged 18-34. Younger generations are frustrated that older people don’t seem to be taking a life-threatening issue seriously. 

Another frustration that the youth have been experiencing is the sense of entitlement that the older generation often likes to convey. Most boomers think that young people these days have it far too easy, and have been spoiled in their upbringing, resulting in a generation they believe is oversensitive and insecure.

Boomers love to talk about how hard they had to work, and how the youth just need to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” a common phrase, but the reality is life isn’t that much easier for us. 

Many people don’t make enough money to have a living wage, and the cost of attending college has grown drastically in the last couple decades. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, college tuition has on average increased by a whopping 145% since 1971, while average household income has only increased by 28%. College Board data reports that students today are paying over half what their parents paid for college. 

“OK boomer” is the amalgamation of all of the resentment slowly built up by the youth towards a generation that sees them as spoiled brats. The hypocrisy of baby boomers needed to be addressed one way or another, even if it was by unconventional means. Boomers should try to look at these issues from the perspective of their younger peers, and realize that we should all be willing to listen and consider one another’s opinions.