"OK boomer" is an all-purpose rejoinder for millennials and Gen Y/Zers who are accused by their elders of eating too much avocado toast, wanting a participation trophy, or of miscellaneous snowflaking.
The phrase's origin is apparently in responses to a viral Tiktok clip showing an old white man denouncing youngsters, which spawned thousands of creative, sarcastic responses centered around the phrase "OK boomer."
The apex of the "OK boomer" moment is 19 year old Shannon O'Connor's "OK boomer" merch: hoodies and tees, captioned, "Have a terrible day." O'Connor has competition from a variety of other "OK boomer" merchandisers selling custom tees and tights through sites like Redbubble and Spreadshirt. The most successful "OK boomer" vendors say they plan to use the money to pay down the massive debts they've racked up trying to survive in a world in which boomers have arranged for massive inequality and high prices for life's essentials.
The movement's anthem is Peter Kuli's "OK boomer".
Taylor Lorenz documented "OK boomer" in a New York Times article that led to a flood of emails from aggrieved boomers who wanted to wag their fingers at her.
I'm sympathetic to this snappy rejoinder, but also mindful of Yves Smith's rebuttal that it supposes that "a 75-year-old Walmart greeter and a 75-year-old billionaire are more alike than different."
My novel Little Brother has a fictional youth uprising whose slogan is "Don't trust anyone over 25," but whose protagonists (spoiler alert!) only triumph when they make common cause with the adults in their lives who are also being victimized by the forces that have got the kid-heroes in an uproar.
The incredible support that Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn have won among young people -- even people too young to vote -- is a timely reminder that our enemy is oligarchy, not demographics. "OK boomer" is a snappy comeback for generalizations about so-called generations, but like all slogans, it fails to capture some very important nuance.
Rising inequality, unaffordable college tuition, political polarization exacerbated by the internet, and the climate crisis all fuel anti-boomer sentiment.
And so Ms. Kasman and other teenagers selling merch say that monetizing the boomer backlash is their own little form of protest against a system they feel is rigged. “The reason we make the ‘ok boomer’ merch is because there’s not a lot that I can personally do to reduce the price of college, for example, which was much cheaper for older generations who then made it more expensive,” Ms. Kasman said. “There’s not much I can personally do to restore the environment, which was harmed due to corporate greed of older generations. There’s not much I can personally do to undo political corruption, or fix Congress so it’s not mostly old white men boomers who don’t represent the majority of generations.”
Ms. Kasman said she plans to use proceeds to pay for college. So do others.
‘OK Boomer’ Marks the End of Friendly Generational Relations [Taylor Lorenz/New York Times]