I don’t often say much about myself but this time I’ll make an exception. I’ll admit it. I’m a Boomer.
Who are the Boomers?
The Baby Boomers are that generation born from 1946 to 1964, when the USA and other countries experienced a high birth rate. Its hard to say why the birth rate shot up during those years, but one theory, as good as any other, is that people were trying to replace those who were lost in World War 2.
They were followed by Gen X (b. 1965 – 1980), the Millenials (b. 1981 – 1996), and Gen Z (b. 1997 – 2015).
Yada, yada, yada
Now I’m no expert on intergenerational relations, but the one thing I did notice over the years is that my generation had a lot to say to and about the Millenials. Lots of advice, analysis, complaints, and more advice — perhaps more than at any time in history. I’m sure the Millenials didn’t like it, but being young adults without much money or power, there was no opportunity to talk back.
Helicopters and lawnmowers
One perennial Millenial complaint is that of “helicopter parents” and “lawnmower parents” — folks that watch over their kids closely, ready to pounce on them and analyze, criticize, and police their behavior; and run in front of them and “smooth the way” as if left to their own devices, they could not possibly succeed.
Older generations have always told the younger ones that what they were doing was wrong. But now the emphasis was on basic values as well as behavior.
The great technological divide was the internet. My generation of course grew up without it, and to this day, if I can do it “in real life” (IRL) I will. Most Millenials and Gen Z’ers are the opposite, doing things on the internet whenever they can (and thanks to smartphones, wherever they are).
When the Boomers started to boom
As soon as the “Greatest Generation” (b. 1901 – 1924) and “Silent Generation” (b. 1925 – 1945) moved up and out of the way (meaning they died), the Boomers were ready to take over. There being lots of them meant they were solidly in the majority. In the USA, they grew up during a period of prosperity, and were reluctant to give that up — even if it meant passing laws that took away from other people and their own future (for example, ignoring global warming because they won’t be around when it happens).
Now the Boomers are retiring, their jobs are being taken over by — the Millenials! And they are finding their voice. Rather than listen and sulk at yet another lecture, they are simply dismissing what their elders have to say. The phrase commonly used for this is “OK, Boomer” which means “thank you for telling me that, now go away and be quiet while I do what I want”. And how can they get away with that? Because they are becoming the majority. The Boomers are becoming a marginalized splinter group that are politely listened to, then ignored. Yes, they are older, yes they are “wiser”, but they are increasingly being seen as out of touch with modern times. If you’re a Boomer and want to be listened to, you have to have something to say — being older just isn’t enough any more.
I have deep admiration for the way that Millenials are doing something about climate change, even if it’s only holding demonstrations for now. I keep thinking I’ll go down the city center one of these days and join them, but one thing after another keeps getting in the way. But I’m thankful that somebody’s doing it.
Climate change is a complex issue, with one side saying one thing and the other side saying something else. One frequently heard argument is that mankind is not responsible for the current warming because it’s just part of a natural fluctuation over many years. But if the Earth heats up enough, wouldn’t we be just as dead?
My opinion is that we should worry about it, but not worry too much about carbon dioxide (CO2). Sunlight, moisture, and plant matter convert CO2 into oxygen, and we have plenty of all three. It’s just a matter of getting them together. There’s plenty of room in the oceans to build “oxygen farms”.
My pet remedy is to launch reflectors into space to divert excess sunlight away from the Earth. A reflector would have to be quite large — at least the size of Ireland. (Don’t laugh — China has plans to launch a satellite that would reflect light onto cities at night to replace streetlights.)
Some say that that “OK, Boomer” is a neo-ageist phrase intended to demonize older people, much like the six-letter n word. Of course it is. But the real issue is that Millenials are tired of being talked down to and micromanaged. They feel the Boomers just “don’t get it”. (Perhaps the Boomers “don’t get it” so thoroughly that they don’t realize the issue is that they “don’t get it”.) As the proportion of Millenials increases, they are finally speaking up — because they can.
Don’t trust anyone….
Younger people finally standing up to the snootiness of older people is not a new story. When I was young, the catchphrase was “don’t trust anyone over 30”. As I grew up I started ignoring my parents to live my own life on my own terms. (I still have a tendency to defer to authority figures in my life, but I’m trying to overcome that.) Now it’s the Millenials turn to dictate terms; but in the fullness of time, even Millenials will be criticized, ignored, and finally forgotten by their own children. And it’s already starting. The Millenials complain to the Gen Z’ers that they are addicted to their phones. Same dance as always, just with a different tune.