When I first heard “Ok, Boomer,” it made me laugh. It is after all, a gentle ribbing, a joke at the expense of clueless older folks, like me. That said, it’s not all just giggles for some of us. My partner and I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s. We were children, not hippies, acid droppers, or Nam vets.
Being children then exposed us to the greatest generation gap, as well as a cultural fight for values, like none before.
The only time the world has been more polarized in our values, or our perceived shared values, is right now. NOW, we have worldwide protest of every size and shape, every single day, and the pace of them is frenetic. Young people are stepping up. We should all applaud that.
There are those who see our polarization as proof that boomers ruined everything. We sold out to capitalism, and destroyed the world with pollution and consumption.
Much of what was OK then, was intolerable, so we changed it
But, as a flower child of the 1960’s, some of us point to a few cultural changes with pride:
The fight for civil rights
The fight for women’s rights
The fight to regard our Earth and environment
The fight to end an immoral war
The fight for accepted sexuality for all
The fight for LGBTQ rights
The fight for migrant, and underrepresented workers
Maybe younger people today have a very good point about how none of these human rights issues have been settled. Still, it is important, crucial even, to note that many, many people have tried. To try to fight oppression, to have intention, does matter. Only with the intention of more than seven billion, however, can we make significant progress. And, now, our seven billion have become caught up in the need to survive severe upheaval.
Another thing to be mindful of is that when the mid-century gave way to the millennium, very few people were able to shake off the steel denial of climate change, and the backlash against all movements by the most wealthy and powerful who guard the status quo.
So, considering all of these overwhelming challenges, all of the time we were allotted, and all of the backlash encountered, I would say: “Boomers, you did OK.Or, to put it another way to add some levity: “OK, Boomer!”
It’s still rock and roll to me
Remember that in addition to the exhausting and ongoing movements already mentioned, in a time of economic stagnation, most of us were working to get food on the table while also working to enrich those at the top.
Human values about family and faith, and so on have never stopped being important. Emotions concerning “the forgotten ones” steer almost every election cycle and almost invariably end up with a “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” situation.
Or, in the immortal words of another boomer, “We didn’t start the fire, no, we didn’t light it but we tried to fight it.”
(To those of you who have no idea of what I’m talking about, old timey rock and roll is a genre that drew many of us away from completely solving every daunting challenge by just being too catchy, danceable, and the best music ever known to ever distract the hearts and minds of humankind.)
The point is that many boomers fought for greater representation, and just as the world is in trouble because to scapegoat is always easier than taking responsibility, maybe “Ok, boomer” is a shortcut way to blame older social justice warriors because they are still failing in the eyes of today’s youth.
The new warriors must convince boomers and new bloomers alike
Greta Thunberg, Jamie Margolin, and Xiuhtexcatl Martinez, Leah Namugerwa, to name just a few children who became climate activists are inspiring the young because they are young. They see more clearly, which is ironic given all the smoke from Alaska to the Amazon.
A sort of tipping point about our fate and our planet has resulted in a burgeoning bloom of activism everywhere. But, they did learn the basics from boomers before them who never did really shut up.
None of today’s youth would fault those who came before: Jane Goodall, E.O. Wilson, Al Gore, David Attenborough, Bill McKibben, Paul Hawken. There are actually thousands of such names of determined canaries in the coal mines that have been screaming for years.
For many of us who have failed to get the vital attention needed from the general public, hearing “OK, Boomer,” is as much tragic as it is funny.
All of us, failed to somehow grab the public attention in the way that the confluence of rivers of young people from all nations, of all colors, and of all causes have done. A very inescapable reason for this is that people don’t pay attention very well when they are not freezing, burning up, flooded, or struggling with any of the myriad outcomes of our present crisis.
But the kids are stepping up now. They see all this and they see much more clearly than our fellow boomers did, that the system must change.
Let’s continue to listen and learn from mistakes and possibilities
Acknowledging mistakes is an acknowledgment of power and responsibility. Each person, of every age, has the power to make better choices, now.
This is a wonderful thing. If one can call too little too late for many of the now expiring species and sustainable ecosystems of the world “a wonderful thing.” Yet, I think it is a good thing. Yes, the sky is falling, but trying catching it is so much better than not even trying.
The boomers and the present bloomers are not so different, after all. The more we unite against common foes, the more we gain. We can laugh at cynicism, but delight in the palpable presence of hope.