Ok Boomer: A Class Struggle

10/11/2019

The phrase “ok Boomer” has taken the internet, and specifically social media, by storm. It has sparked a litany of sarcastic responses, offense, memes, and even a comeback to a heckle in New Zealand’s government. While I have enjoyed the jokes quite a bit, as jokes, and while there are obviously many Boomers to which it can be applied, it is worth noting that many of the assumptions and accusations made through the phrase are not definitive of, nor exclusive to, a single generation. Many of them are a class issue, or, dare I say, an intellectual one.

As a sidenote, however, I do revel in the irony of certain Baby Boomers being offended by the phrase “ok Boomer” for a couple of reasons. The first is that many of them who are specifically being targeted are probably also the ones who call out the “SJW” crowd and millennials for being snowflakes and offended at everything. Suddenly, however, the tables have turned, and being referred to as the generation that you belong to and being stereotyped as such is just unacceptable and disrespectful.

The second is that, again, specifically those being targeted with it, they are generally the ones who use ridicule, half-truths, or simply false information to try discredit any argument that disagrees with their views. Now that younger generations have resorted to similarly intellectually inferior retorts in the form of “ok Boomer”, they are now being accused as having no basis for their arguments. Us young folk just can’t win with some people.

But, back to a serious note. “Ok Boomer”, as I’ve been able to deduce it, is simply the response given to those who cannot come to grips with reality or other points of view. Despite all the evidence that climate change is very real and very dangerous to human survival, there are many out there who call it a hoax or question just how bad it really is. Years of trying to argue using this evidence has not achieved much, sadly, as some simply cannot be instructed or persuaded. That is their own prerogative, but it has now earned them the “ok Boomer” retort by those who are tired of running into a brick wall over and over again.

On the economic side is where it gets a little more interesting, with various claims about how “good” things are right now. Just completely ignore the debt tripling under the Coalition, the increase in unemployment and underemployment, the desecration of our public services and the corruption of our private ones, the housing market that so many in the current system will not be able to access due to developers and investment property owners, the recession we are tumbling towards at full force, the vicious attacks on the Unions who fought for so many of the benefits we do have, the erosion of our rights to assembly and protesting, the banking Royal Commission that resulted in hardly any justice, the increasing gap between rich and poor…

Need I continue?

There has been so much spin in the media and from our government that an unsettling number of people are blind to the reality of our situation, and others who have personal interests that conflict with society as a whole and have no qualms quashing those beneath them. In the face of all that, seeing people, especially young people, feeling disenfranchised and disillusioned with the political and economic system is not surprising. Rather than getting better, things seem to be getting worse, and when others wag their finger at how “spoilt” and “ungrateful” they are for what’s been given to them, it’s no surprise something as sarcastic and befitting to younger humour as “ok Boomer” has taken off.

We do need to be careful, though, because as mentioned above, many of the assumptions and accusations rolled into the “ok Boomer” phrase aren’t necessarily applicable to all Boomers, nor exclusive to them either. I know quite a few young people who attack the legitimacy of climate change, including one person I knew from school who parroted the Nazi connection of using children to push their agenda with Greta Thunberg and the UN. I also know quite a few young people who are deeply pro-capitalist and who are in favour of many of the Coalition’s policies. Whereas the climate change stuff is simply an inability to grasp science, the economic and social side of things is very much class based.

We see stories of ‘self-made’ young millionaires, starting businesses or buying up investment properties, and yet in many cases, with a bit of digging, you can rest assured mum and dad have some tidy wealth of their own to help them on their way. Along with the wealth comes privileges that others may not be able to take advantage of. They’ll say things like “If only other people in my generation worked harder then they could have money too.”

But say you earned $200 an hour – which to many is an insane amount of money. You work 40 hours a week, which is $8000, for 52 weeks a year. All work, no vacations, sick days, other commitments, none of that lazy stuff – you’d have $416, 000. Do this for 40 years and you’ll only reach little over $16.5M. Or expand that to an extreme – how about $5000 an hour? That seems unrealistic, surely? In the same amount of time and with the same commitment, you would not even reach half a billion dollars – and this is in total, excluding expenses over this time.

How many jobs out there offer $200 an hour though, or a salary of $416, 000 a year? Given the median wage sits around $55, 000-$60, 000, I would say not that many (I say median, not average, because the average is skewed up to $80, 000 or so, not exactly representative of the majority.) And what are the chances of the people who earn that much actually putting in the labour? More likely, the richer you are the more you ride off the coattails and profits of others’ labour.

And don’t mistake this observation as a personal grievance – my family are by no means ‘rich’, but we rest quite comfortably a bit above the stated average wage. I do not take this fact for granted because my parents have worked to reach where we are now, and there were times we had struggled due to various circumstances. We are luckier than most, in my opinion, and yet I know people with more money and opportunities who complain. A relative of mine in a well-off family was taken aback when another relative of mine rather bluntly laid out for him just how privileged they really were.

Point being, very few people actually ‘work’ for wealth in the millions, and absolutely no one works for hundreds of millions or billions. That is a fallacy that we get fed by those who abuse the system, abuse their workers. Just work a little harder, try a little more – if you don’t make it then that’s your problem. I have even seen a series of small books called “Rich Dad” that, on the cover, says the poor remain poor because they don’t teach their kids what rich people teach their kids. How fucking stuck up do you have to be to achieve that level of disconnection with reality? Yes, I’m sure you worked for every bit of that hefty inheritance.

So the rhetoric tied up with “ok Boomer” is actually aimed at the upper classes of society, who on average may be older, but there are many younger folk who are just as caught up in their bubble. It is also worth noting that there are many elderly people working to try and better the world, such as the Jeremy Corbyn’s or Bernie Sanders’ of the world, and countless others who also suffer at the lower end of the spectrum.

I don’t consider the term Boomer being used in this context to be “ageist” as some have claimed, but I do think it’s a rather misleading term for something that is related to class, not necessarily age. While some vocal Boomers, usually those in some position of power or wealth, are the main targets, it should be recognised that there is a new generation of this group that also needs to be challenged. We can’t afford to alienate people of older generations that have also dealt with similar injustice just because we want to laugh at a meme and throw blame at someone else.

If people want to see change, they need to participate in it. Vote for people who push for a fairer system, and convince others of your point of view – yes, even those worthy of an “ok Boomer”. Join your Union and attend protests and demand a fairer system. Challenge those who own extreme wealth and question the legitimacy of their gains. One does not need to be socialist or anarchist to understand that workers under capitalism are extorted by ruthless and greedy corporate types.

So the next time you see a meme or a message saying “ok Boomer”, take a moment to chuckle, but understand the underlying meaning. The capitalistic class, across all generations, should be very worried.

“There’s always those who want it all to stay the same

Leave it alone, point the finger, shift the blame

Their lives fit perfect into that picture frame

And never wonder why others want the same

Funny how the world that we perceive’s

Just passed down through our family trees

With victims of geography

Choosing our ideology” – Sin Shake Sin, Normal Is Broken.

 
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