We are generation-centric. We are a society of demographics and labels. Marketing, politics, entertainment; we are categorized, studied, targeted, sold and even hated based on our attributes.
We all belong to a generation. We are surrounded by other generations, but do we notice it? Of course, but how conscious are we of the generational differences? Do we internalize the attributes? What do we believe about people of other generations? Are there assumptions and prejudices buried in our attitudes and actions?
I recall when Millennials began populating the workplace. As managers, we noted differences and challenges, from hiring to workplace dynamics to changing jobs. We started reading up on this new group, trying to understand them, and adjust if possible. Despite the literature, not everyone in this age group was the same. Some of us knew the workplace was changing, and we had better get to know this new wave of employees.
Let’s be honest, we categorize and label generations. The Greatest Generation, the Lost Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z. Next, we analyze and attach characteristics. Baby boomers are the “Me” Generation, self-involved, self-actualization, self-fulfillment. Is this really true? Look at the 1970s, the decade of excess, therapy and finding yourself. Not a lot of “team” in those pursuits.
I started writing this blog several weeks ago, before this “OK Boomer” business started. At first, I was amused, and I understand the pushback against Greta Thunberg by many, including folks who are of my generation. I love Greta, and young, passionate people, like David Hogg, the Parkland shooting survivor, they represents the future of our world. I applaud their moxie and courage to ruffle feathers.
Unfortunately, this “OK Boomer” stuff is being used as a general dismissive swat against older people. Ageism is not attractive, nor is it a smart argument. The tension between generations is real, and it is heating up.
My generation has monopolized positions of power and influence, and usually by white guys, like me. I’m sensitive to this because we are long past needing to elect more women and people of color. There is something to wisdom and experience, but not for one gender and one ethnicity to dominate executive positions in the private sector and elected positions in the public sector. Thankfully, that is changing, but not fast enough.
I am part of the baby boomer generation, the latter part, but I am. It’s a very dynamic generation: Woodstock, protests, Earth Day, civil rights, equal rights, soldiers that went to Vietnam, computer technology, medical discoveries and great music. There are probably an equal number of bad things. The Great Recession, the wealth gap, the high cost of drugs and healthcare, disco.
So, when I hear the term “OK Boomer” I am disappointed. It’s an insult to an age group. It’s dismissive and weak. It is as dismissive as telling a younger person, “Jr, sit down and watch an adult at work.”
William Shatner didn’t take kindly to the OK Boomer comment. This has been shared widely on the Internet.
The older generation(s) have helped create their own problems. There is an underlying anger at my generation. Is it that we’ve screwed up the country, the planet, or just generally not represented the interests of those behind us? Or it is that we are in the way and other people want our seats?
Many of my generation have not evolved, holding onto antiquated beliefs and using our power or influence in a repressive manner to hold onto a sense of privilege. If true, this generation did not learn much from the 1960s.
Baby boomers were going to change the world. Collectively, we did. But, is what we have better, or just different?
Just a few years ago, I naively thought we were seeing ourselves more as one people, and less as different demographics. When Barack Obama was elected President, I felt like we had an opportunity to turn a corner. Some did, but many people stopped and didn’t make the turn. And since then, the divisions in America have grown. Name it, and it divides us.
In twenty years, the boomers will mostly gone, then what? In time, younger generations move to the top of the age range. In the 1960s and 1970s, boomers were critical of the “older” generation, and gradually, they became the bosses, leaders, parents and grandparents.
When I’m retired and watching the younger generations lead, I want them to succeed. My future depends on it, and that of my grandkids.