Filipinos will hear the phrase “OK, boomer” more frequently these days, if not already—and it’s not as cute as it sounds.
A catchphrase coined by the millennial or “meme” generation, it is used to dismiss out-of-touch, condescending or closed-minded attitudes associated with the baby-boomer generation and older people more generally.
On Thursday in Wellington, New Zealand, with the quickfire putdown, a 25-year-old Kiwi politician dismissed a heckler during a speech about climate change—highlighting the generation gap between herself and other members of Parliament (MPs) in a clip that has gone viral.
Closer to home, “OK, boomer” has been the favored retort to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr., who has been slammed by Pinoy netizens for undiplomatic behavior.
This was after Locsin shot expletives at a newspaper reporter on Twitter for tweeting President Rodrigo Duterte’s absence at the closing ceremony of the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit, and at another journalist who reminded him of his role as the country’s top diplomat.
In recent months, “OK, boomer” has gained traction as a meme on apps like TikTok that have a predominantly young user base.
Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick used it to hit back at interjections while speaking this week in support of a bill to reduce New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“How many world leaders for how many decades have seen and known what is coming, but have decided that it is more politically expedient to keep (climate change) behind closed doors?” she said.
“My generation and the generations after me do not have that luxury.
“In the year 2050 I will be 56 years old… yet, right now, the average of this 52nd Parliament is 49 years old,” she added.
As she spoke, another MP began to heckle her and Swarbrick fired back: “OK, boomer.”
The retort, referencing people born in the “baby boom” period of 1946 to 1964, flew over the heads of MPs in the house at the time.
But when clips of the moment were shared on social media, messages of support for Swarbrick streamed in from the Millennial generation, born between the early 1980s and mid-90s, and the even younger Generation Z.
The moment made headlines in mainstream publications worldwide which referred to Swarbrick fending off a heckler with a “viral quip”.
Swarbrick told news website Stuff.co.nz that the meme “is symbolic of the collective frustration that young people in particular feel to placing evidence in fact time after time in the debate… and being met with dogma.”
The phrase acknowledges that “you cannot win a deeply polarized debate—facts don’t matter,” she said.
However, at least one baby boomer thinks it’s time to ditch the condescending phrase.
Tyler Cowen, writing for Bloomberg, says: “Those who use ‘OK Boomer’ reveal more about themselves than those they use it against.”
“On the positive side, my generation is being treated as a force of nature, a generation so strong and influential that it must be addressed by name. In so many debates today, being insulted is seen as a mark of importance,” he says.
“On the negative side, I worry that those who deploy ‘OK Boomer’ are putting themselves down and signaling their own impotence,” Cowen adds.
In the Filipino Freethinkers group on Facebook, one poster wrote: “This OK Boomer retort is funny, because it’s the equivalent of ‘eh di wow ikaw na boomer na may experience’ (well wow you’re the wise experienced boomer). An answer of dismissive exasperation.”
“The Millennials and Zs are tired of explaining. ‘Ok boomer, any way…’; it’s a hip ‘whatever.’ But instead of seeing the exasperation, the ones offended (not necessarily boomers) rage at the ‘rage quit,’ making it even funnier,” the poster added. With AFP