Imagine being fully informed and researched on your topic for your speech, and then an older MP heckles you in disbelief of the facts that you are presenting. That is exactly what happened when 25-year-old MP Chloe Swarbrick gave her speech on the climate crisis, where she opened with the revealing fact that the average age in the New Zealand parliament is 49 years. When the older gentleman rudely interrupted her statistic, Swarbick pushed back with ‘Ok Boomer’. Swarbrick’s point that age was affecting policy was essentially confirmed by the older gentleman’s outburst – his condescending response symbolized the generational gap that is all too often inhibiting productive political discourse and policy making.
The phrase, first coined on the popular app TikTok has widely resonated with millennials and members of Gen Z. Now a meme, “Ok Boomer” is being used everywhere by the younger generation to push back against ageist rhetoric put forth by “boomers” (more specifically Gen X), who accuse the latest generations as plagued by ‘Peter Pan Syndrome;’ (reference to not wanting to grow up). Central to this absurd assumption is the argument that millennials and Gen Z romanticize utopian ideals which simply don’t translate to adulthood, on top of having everything handed to them on a silver platter. Here is what is being handed to us: massive college debt, low wages, difficulty in securing a job that utilizes our college degree, struggling to get approved for loans for home ownership (not to mention high mortgage payments), and lastly the state that is our planet. Aja Romano, of Vox rejected the idea that Ok Boomer was ‘about the past. [in fact] It’s about [the] apocalyptic future’, referencing the contemporary issues looming over this generation (Vox)
Of course, to the world I sound like my fellow whiny Gen Z’ers. But here’s the thing: the younger generation has always stood as the beacon of change and modernity. Boomers should relate to this because in their college days, they rose up and protested institutional oppression in the 60s like the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and the anti-war rhetoric that swept across college campuses. The point of this article is not to say that the divide between the generations should be reinforced and that the older generation should be put to shame, instead it is to reiterate the fact that generational experiences are not completely exclusive. The ignorance and disagreement we are experiencing right now, the boomers and Gen X have faced in their time so instead of making ageist remarks on both sides, it is crucial to abridge the generational rift – in hope that we can engage in a meaningful discussion about these important issues.