As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, the words ‘Boomer Remover’ featured prominently in Twitter trends the past couple of days. It is, of course, a mean yet on-point joke about how the majority of the COVID-19 pandemic’s death toll are the elderly.
What is the reason for this pushback and anger against Boomers across the world, and in particular, against uncles in India? ‘OK Boomer’ and ‘Uncle, please sit’ are now popular catchphrases to signal that young people have had enough of the policies and politics that have got us to this point. Boomers have handed younger generations a broken economy, an ailing planet, and nuclear weapons – but won’t stop with the lectures.
And as many pointed out, the Boomers’ response to the admittedly off-colour joke has been far more proactive than their response to all the actual problems for which younger generations blame them: their political choices that have now led to lack of jobs for the current generations around the world and their inability to buy a house, a growing climate crisis, rising depression and anxiety among young people, poor healthcare facilities, rampant gun violence in schools and even their ostrich-like response to coronavirus. Many Boomer-run offices can easily allow employees to work from home in the gig economy until this pandemic is over, but they simply won’t.
Young people are now telling them that their time, more specifically, the time of their ideas, is over, and they should stop trying to run the world.
But first, who exactly is a Boomer? Technically, Baby Boomers are the post- World War II generation, born between 1946 to 1964 and named for its contribution to baby-making and regenerating a world that was ravaged by war. The generation was defined by post-war hope, stability, and conspicuous-consumption prosperity. But today, it has come to mean business-as-usual status quoists.
Don’t dismiss young people, Boomers
The use of the term as a pejorative, though, has less to do with age and more to do with a certain mindset that most people above a certain age are unwilling to change. The typical Boomer, for example, is generally dismissive of anyone under the age of 40 as a clueless and entitled “millennial”. Never mind the fact that a millennial is technically someone born anywhere between the early 1980s and the mid-90s, after which come at least two more generations. But then, since when does a Boomer, especially a man, care about that? To him, everyone and everything that came after him is young, naïve, not as good. All he has to do is wave his hand dismissively at you when you argue, and lecture you about how the world works because he knows best. Been there, ruined that.
Young people respond to this dismissiveness in the way they know best — through memes, like Ok Boomer, which mimics that same dismissiveness and throws it right back at the Boomer. It calls out the older generation’s unwillingness to see that the world has changed and that not all the old rules still apply. Because of Boomers’ lifestyle and political cjoices, young people are now saddled with a job and real-estate market they didn’t ask for, with a dying planet and an authoritarian rightward political swing. They are simply doing their best to salvage what they can. Be it on the streets, through Instagram fund-raisers for the bushfires in Australia, organising donation drives of sanitary pads, food and medicines to areas in Delhi affected by communal riots, or fighting to save trees, glaciers, birds and polar bears, they are doing their best. They are tired of the Boomers standing in the way. Yes, creating prosperity mattered to the Boomers, but the young insist on sustainable prosperity and if the Boomers can’t find it in them to support these efforts, they could at least not actively diss them.
Why are Boomers so dismissive?
Boomers diss these efforts because they’re afraid of them. They diss them because they’re afraid of their own growing irrelevance. When Greta Thunberg repeatedly thundered “How dare you?” at world leaders, what irked many Boomers was that she was reminding them to think beyond themselves, to think about future generations. Most world leaders are from the Boomer generation, both in terms of age and mindset, and they will soon be irrelevant and eventually, gone, a fact they hate to be reminded of. But their children and grandchildren will be left behind, picking up the pieces of the world they ruined because of their denial of change and crisis, their ostrich-like unwillingness to engage with a new world because it terrifies them. That’s why Boomers hate Greta Thunberg.
Closer home, in India, when finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman blamed “millennials” for the automobile industry slowdown, it once again threw into stark relief that the Boomers just don’t get it. Young people are blamed for everything from an economic downturn to the breakdown of marriage (an institution that needs a massive overhaul anyway). The young and their new ideas are even being blamed for the rise of the Right-Wing around the world. Frankly, the backlash against this blame was a long time coming.
And now that coronavirus has reared its ugly head, we are once again seeing the generational rift between Boomers and “millennials”. It’s no secret that COVID-19 most likely moved from bats to pangolins to humans. And why are bats coming closer and closer to human habitation? Because of deforestation. Something that young people around the world have rallied against, in climate strikes that Boomers dissed “as useless millennial activism.”
So, when young people call the pandemic a Boomer Remover, is it unkind? Of course. Is it on point? Yes.