The first time I realised that the Baby Boomers had become a reviled generation was when I overheard the conversation of one of my teenage grandchildren. She was expressing distain for an elderly relative and sneeringly dismissed him as an “Old Boomer.” “Boomer? Boomer? What is this Boomer business, I thought?”
On behalf of the rest of the five million people born between 1946 and 1966, I was hurt. I hadn’t realised the cultural attitude towards Baby Boomers had become so fixed and so derogatory. My concern isn’t imaginary. A 2020 American film Echo Boomers features a group of hard done-by Millennials who embark on a life of crime in order to compensate for their disadvantaged lives. I discovered on the internet that the term “Echo Boomer” is parlance for the largest generation of young people since the ’60s who are coming of age. An Echo Boomer is supposed to reflect the demographic echo of their parents, the Baby Boomers.
I predict the movie, Echo Boomers, will be associated with one of the most specious tag lines in cinema history, “We’re not just stealing, we’re sending a message,” says one of the aggrieved characters.
My paranoia about being stereotyped and hated because of the year in which I was born gathered momentum when I came upon the catch cry, “OK Boomer.” Now if someone says “OK Boomer” to you they aren’t telling you, “You’re OK old chap.” Rather, they’re giving you a patronising pat on the head, as in, “OK Boomer, settle – admit you’re a geriatric, anachronistic embarrassment. Admit your decisions are responsible for our student loan debts, general economic and political uncertainty and, of course, climate change.”
That’s quite a weighty indictment – being responsible for destroying an entire planet. In defence of the Boomers I make the following observations. On the matter of student loans for example – we didn’t have to pay off student loans because we didn’t go to university. Many of us were excluded from tertiary education because our families were too poor to pay for fees – unless you won a scholarship, you were pretty much buggered.
As for the planet’s dwindling resources it was the Boomers who bought-second hand furniture and second-hand clothes. We washed nappies and used cotton face-washers rather than those ubiquitous wipes. We even bought Earth bloody Garden and made mud-brick cottages. So there. And when we finally got our shit together, we loved our darling children. We let them stay at home for as long as they wanted, allowed them to have safe sexual relationships under the family roof. And by and large, bought them up in liberal and loving households.
The problem with generation-based arguments is that they shut down, rather than open up discussion. The lens through which we view history is just as vital as the historical events themselves. And there are many lenses. Climate change, for example, isn’t the result of the greed of a group of curmudgeonly old Boomers. It’s the result of industrial, political and global forces which are propelled by the needs of various nation states and alliances. The people who are responsible for climate change represent a cross-section of generations.
Solving problems isn’t a matter of throwing around a few slogans. OK Millennials? It’s complicated. Life is complicated. And it’s sometimes very hard.
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