The response we were looking for but not the one we need…
So much for respecting your elders.
In November of 2019, Chlöe Swarbrick, a 25-year-old member of New Zealand’s parliament, stood before the Speaker of the House to comment on the Zero Carbon bill. A fellow MP—an older man—then heckled her mid-speech.
Her response rocked the world.
The Zero Carbon bill aims to reduce New Zealand’s net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Swarbrick, a Green Party MP, spoke of the challenges that younger generations will face in the future. She said, “Mr. Speaker, how many world leaders, for how many decades have seen and known what is coming but have decided that it is more politically expedient to keep it behind closed doors. My generation and the generations after me do not have that luxury.”
“In the year 2050, I will be 56 years old. Yet, right now, the average age of this 52nd Parliament is 49 years old—”
She was interrupted by Todd Muller, a climate change opposer, who loudly jeered at her words.
Swarbrick motioned him away with her hand and said, “OK, Boomer.”
‘Boomer’ being short for baby boomer—the generation born between 1946 and 1964— are currently 50 to 70 years old. The ‘baby’ part comes from being born after the end of the Second World War when an influx of births occurred.
On November 5th, Swarbrick addressed her naysayers in a Facebook post.
So much for respecting your elders.
Swarbrick’s sharp response not only shook older people in their seats, but the two-worded phrase struck a chord with millennials. The clap back exemplifies the frustration that 25 to 35-year-olds have after being called “special snowflakes,” “lazy,” and “sensitive” for quite some time.
The irony of the older generation showing sensitivity in their responses—even going as far as having called it the “n-word” of ageism—fuels the generational rift across the board.
It has since gone viral, and the hashtag #OKBoomer rapidly gained popularity, mainly on Twitter and TikTok. The surge also resulted in hoodies made by Gen Z’s, and viral videos of teenagers saying the phrase to their teachers.
19-year-old Shannon O’Connor designed the infamous ‘OK, Boomer, Have a Terrible Day.’ Hoodie. Eventually, she expanded into shirts, mugs, and bags. O’Connor turned a meme into a business opportunity, and it quickly returned over $10,000 in orders.
The phrase has even been added to the dictionary. Urban dictionary curated user lulaloops’ description has the top definition.
The user adds the short definition of “back in my day” is the way an old man tells you to stop whining about stuff they did differently in the past.
Millennials and young people aren’t the only ones taking to social media. Boomers are also actively stating their reactions.
When you’re sifting through the many opinions on the matter, try playing the game Spot the Boomer. Here are some examples to aid you in your search:
“MAYBE IF MILLENNIALS DIDN’T SPEND ALL OF THEIR MONEY ON AVOCADO TOAST, THEY COULD BUY A HOUSE.”
“If students worked while they were in school like we did, they wouldn’t be in so much debt.”
This conversation isn’t a revelation, it’s been ongoing. Namely, boomers are saying millennials want participation trophies for doing the bare minimum, while millennials remark boomers are out of touch. For example, how boomers can downplay how different the present job market is by saying, “just call/go in and ask if they’re hiring!”
Millennials and young people worry about climate change, social injustice, and the rising costs of rent and education. They believe that previous generations are the ones to blame since decades of ignoring environmental concerns have been proven as a misstep.
‘OK, Boomer’ can be hilarious in the short-term. Still, long-term, it doesn’t provide any solutions to young people’s economic and environmental anxiety and how older generations resist change.
As frustrated as we are, we need to see it from the other side. Stooping to the same level of name-calling isn’t solving anything. How long until “OK, Boomer” is matched with “OK, Snowflake”?
We can say the phrase is overused now. It can also be executed in the wrong context by using it as a rebuttal to the wrong generation (i.e. A Gen Z student opposing their 30-something teacher—who is not a boomer—asking them to do their homework).
If both parties agree to be civil, perhaps each generation can discuss the matters at hand. After the tension of ‘OK, Boomer’ diffuses, we can sit down to explain our concerns and find a solution. We might just learn a thing or two from each other. OK?