Anybody who has spent at least a few hours on the Internet in the last few weeks has witnessed the speedy ascent of the meme ‘OK Boomer,’ which even has its own Wikipedia page now. If you have been living under a rock, the phrase is typically used as a response by younger internet users to older Baby Boomers who engage in some form of stereotypically ‘Boomer’ behavior, or advocate for a certain set of politics that younger people have deemed as unacceptable.
A recent Chronicle article highlighted the problem of assuming that Boomers are always correct , simply because of their age and platform, and this is no doubt true. Boomers are not perfect; far from it. As Ryan McMaken writes for the Mises Institute, “The older I get, the more I realize how very wrong I was to ever think that a disproportionate number of people older than me possessed some sort of special knowledge about how to properly run one's life. The amount of laziness, moral degeneracy, arrogance, and general buffoonery I've witnessed among the older set has forever cured me of the idea that my ‘elders,’ prima facie, are a source of wisdom.”
While “OK Boomer,” is not necessarily a productive way to conduct dialogue, there are other important issues with simply dismissing the ideas of Boomers because of the way they conduct themselves on the Internet. Just as elders are not prima facie a source of wisdom, youth isn’t necessarily a fountain of low time preference.
Young people have moved remarkably to the Left, but display a shockingly poor understanding of politics. A Reason-Rupe survey from five years ago found that 42% of Millennials find socialism preferable to capitalism, but the same poll also found that only 16% of Millennials could provide a coherent definition of socialism. This Vox article underscores some of the other puzzling inconsistencies of Millennial ideology from this survey.
Young people are also notoriously self-righteous on social media, especially with regard to Boomers. One need only to browse their Facebook or Twitter feed for a few minutes before seeing someone sharing the latest NYTimes opinion piece attacking the Trump administration for not doing enough on climate change, patting themselves on the back for their contribution to the struggle, and then accusing older people of “ruining” the planet for them.
The reality is somewhat different. It was Boomers who helped fight for many of those things that millennials hold so dear. From taking action on Civil Rights, to protesting the war in Vietnam, to spurring revolutions in science and engineering, Boomers changed the lives of millions for the better, and we’re still feeling the benefits of those changes today. In fact, they helped create the wealthiest country in the history of the world. They gave us cellular phones, the internet, medicines that saved countless lives, and so much more.
Sure, like I said, they’re not perfect. But neither are young people. It’s important to understand this is not an indictment of the youth or an encomium of Boomers. It’s a reminder of how important intergenerational dialogue can be, and that we shouldn’t close ourselves off because of some aggregate differences in policy preferences because, if anything is clear, neither side has all the answers.
Nikhil Sridhar is a Trinity senior. His column, “laissez faire et laissez passer,” runs on alternate Mondays.