Can I be in Generation Who-Gives-A-Crap?


I really detest the whole business of trying to categorize whole generations as one thing or another. Population cohorts are part of a continuum, and they’re diverse, and sticking artificial boundaries and characters on them has about as much validity as the Chinese Astrology trash you get as a placement at restaurants.

But OK, here’s one attempt to summarize the nonsense.

There sure are a lot of overlaps in that mess. I was born in 1957, which makes me a “baby boomer”, or specifically, a “trailing edge boomer”. I’ve got siblings who are Generation X. My kids are all Millennials, while my grandchildren are, cheerfully, members of the Dying Earth clan. Great. Glad to know who I can invite to parties. I guess I must have a lot in common with all my fellow Boomers who voted for Trump, just because we were born within 20 years of each other.

Clearly, class and race are far less significant in shaping who we are than the calendar.

Comments

  1. says

    “Generation Who-Gives-A-Crap” would be too easily confused with “Post-Crapping Generation” who are those born after the technology that just teleports the crap directly out of your colon was perfected.

  2. =8)-DX says

    If you look at the accumulated wealth gap, there are significant generational differences. “ok, boomer” doesn’t exist because all boomers are capitalists, racists or white, but because the current social and economic situation has drastically changed, and even boomers who understand that often have a generational wealth advantage.

    “ok boomer” is a reaction to people expressing privileged opinions based on a shared experience of adult life decades ago, and to pretend race, class and gender arent part of that difference (like accumulated wealth) is just another one of those privileges.
    =8P-DX

  3. says

    I figure “ok boomer” is just the logical dismissal of us boomers, after we boomers were dismissive of OUR elders for not understanding a generation growing up with TV and with the constant reminder of nuclear missiles armed and aimed at us.

  4. says

    “Ok, boomer” sure seems like it might be clever on twitter. Anywhere else and I’m thinking, okay but this isn’t twitter, we use full sentences and have complete thoughts here.

  5. says

    It’s funny to see people start to use zoomer for the current batch of young’uns when there’s a Canadian magazine called Zoomer, which is aimed a 45 and up audience.

  6. zenlike says

    I believe the whole “categorize whole generations” shtick originated with the marketing folks. Which immediately tells you how seriously to take it.

    Oh, and the “ok boomer” thing originated because too many people who grew up around then believe their experiences are totally applicable to younger generations. Yup, you had no problem paying off your measly college debts, or save money to buy your house. Good on you. You don’t know what you are talking about when it comes to the situation of people born after you.

  7. chigau (違う) says

    When I was first told (sometime in elementary school) about the post-WW2 baby-boom, They™ said it ran from 1944 to 1954. So I was not a Boomer.
    Now I am a Boomer.

  8. Ed Seedhouse says

    It’s strange to call people born in 1944 (such as myself) part of the “post war baby boom” since the war didn’t end until 1945. Hell, I was born before they let off the first A bomb in the desert, let alone the date of dropping it on Japan.

    I prefer to call the boomers “the generation that fucked everything up” but that’s a matter of perspective I suppose.

  9. christoph says

    @ Ed Seedhouse, # 11:

    ‘ I prefer to call the boomers “the generation that fucked everything up” ‘
    Hey, it was like that when we got here!

  10. says

    Can I be in Generation Who-Gives-A-Crap?

    Well, disaffectation and jadedness are the hallmarks of Generation X, so go for it.

    (This is actually the main reason I rebel against the classification, most definitions shove me in X but culturally and politically I am much more like the Millennials.)

  11. Susan Montgomery says

    I happen to think “OK, Boomer” is a complete thought. It’s quicker and more concise that a long discourse on the short- and long-term ecological damage caused by Woodstock, extreme consumerism, the reduction of intellectual standards and the ruinous financial decisions that gave us Trump and the 80’s in order to point out that the Boomers are the least-ever qualified generation to complain about “these kids today”.

  12. says

    If you go to the source, it does go back further. 1900-1925: the greatest generation. 1925-1950: the silent generation. Before 1900, it’s the lost generation (thanks, WWI).

  13. larpar says

    People born the same year as me: Barack Obama, Ann Coulter, Woody Harrelson, Sean Hannity.
    Yeah, generational groupings are pretty useless.

  14. unclefrogy says

    @14
    well I think that the point here is that it is completely inaccurate to categorize any arbitrary generations characteristics by when they happen to be born. many of the “Woodstock generation” were part of the back to nature cohort and not MBA’s working for corporate interests though they happened to be born at the same time. many of the decision makers that helped promote extreme consumerism were from the generation that went through WWII.
    The only thing I have heard about generations as depicted here is a reflection of a decided bump in numbers with the post war births which I think has rippled forward in time some what. Nothing about the characteristics of each generation seem unique nor are any dividing lines non overlapping
    uncle frogy

  15. dianne says

    But it’s so much more convenient to blame “boomers” or “millennials” for all your problems than to deal with the complex issues leading society to its current state.

  16. ginckgo says

    I caused a lot of push back recently on some facebook page when I said that the rigid generational categories and their supposed characteristics are no better than astrology. It really blew up when I said it’s just as fact-free as the Meyers-Briggs tests.

    Regarding the “ok boomer” complaint that it’s ‘ageist’: I always say it refers to a mind set, not a birth year. In fact, there are probably more ‘GenX’ people who deserve ‘ok boomer’ these days, than actual ‘Boomers’

  17. robro says

    Now I am a Boomer.

    I was talking to my 28-year-old son about the “Ok, boomer” thing shortly after it happened. He informed me that soon he will be a “boomer”. I spouted the usual thing that “boomer” stood for the post-War baby boom, blah, blah, blah. So, he tells me that per the reckoning of a younger generation than his, that anyone over 30 is a “boomer.” And, yes, despite my advanced years as a “leading edge” boomer, I can easily remember my 20s when we would say (if not actually believe) that you shouldn’t trust anyone over 30.

  18. dianne says

    Regarding the “ok boomer” complaint that it’s ‘ageist’: I always say it refers to a mind set, not a birth year

    You can say that all you like, but “boomer” still refers to an age cohort who are currently of an age to be vulnerable to ageism. So it’s always going to sound like “by immigrants I don’t mean YOU”. But if you really admire the boomer’s “never trust anyone over 30” meme that much, I suppose you might as well go for it.

  19. Allison says

    Yeah, I remember Woodstock. To be precise, I remember reading about it in the paper (I was too young to shlep 400+ miles to a concert I only heard about after it happened, plus I was living in the Ante-Bellum South at the time.) I remember the “summer of love” and all that. I kinda hoped that all those idealistic slogans might translate into real change, but didn’t have much confidence that it actually would. A few people of my generation — a very few — “walked the walk.” A lot more “talked the talk” and eventually didn’t even bother with that. And IHMO the majority did neither. I no longer bother to hope.

    I’ve met a number of people from my children’s generation, and they seemed to have their hearts in the right place. And when I’ve gone back for my college reunions, the younger classes seem a lot nicer than the people from the classes around mine. It may be an unrepresentative sample, though. “Hope springs eternal,” though, so I’m — guardedly — hoping that things will be at least a little better when they take over.

    Nobody’s said “OK Boomer” to me yet. But if they did, I’d just laugh. A hollow laugh.

  20. blf says

    13-year and 17-year cicadas do have distinct generations. People do not. All this nonsense about boomers, X, invented whatever, is just that — nonsense — a patently obvious attempt to divide… and subjugate (rule).

  21. hemidactylus says

    First off…it’s silly, but I caught an episode of Car vs America recently where they traveled to Ocean City, MD for an unofficial “stance car” festival. Stance cars are highly modified cars, mostly body mods and radical suspension lowering. I got seriously pissed, not because a bunch of youth were driving tricked out cars, but because the heavy police harassment targeted at these innovative kids. Yeah maybe people watch too much Fast n Furious movies and ride the trends, but in my day (Dana Carvey voice) there were gas guzzlin’ muscle cars and we liked it. At least stance cars seem to be based mostly on 4 cylinder motor vehicles. I had a stance truck with booming bass back in late 80s so am envious of the newbies.

    I’m a Gen Xer. When I first heard the term I thought it meant my generation (Who reference) were innovators of raving with twirly glow sticks beaning on X pills (hurray us) listening to Kraftwerk derived trance techno beats. Lots of arcane cultural references to unpack there.

    I admit not really getting the point of “Ok Boomer.” It’s one of them new fangled meme things and not really much of an argument. I also admit my first generation gap in my mid 20s when seeing the younger set in “my generation” deciding we all needed to see they were wearing boxer shorts under their oversized shants (shorts/pants hybrids) that kinda fell from the waist due to lack of a properly fastened belt. Weird fashion statement. Sometime around then the clove cigarette was invented. And perhaps blunts…for those who really though conspicuous consumption should be combined with bogarting illicit substances.

  22. Nemo says

    “Dying Earth”? Yikes. First I’ve heard of that.

    But, I’m an optimist. I think a lot of species will be dying off in the next few decades, just not humans.

  23. hemidactylus says

    @1-robertbaden

    No, not Karen! Still too soon. I caught that one on the weatherunderground blog when Karen was brewing in the tropics. After Dorian I was pretty frickin’ over spinny destructive things and didn’t quite see the humor in it. After Matthew, Irma, and Michael I was over the spinny destructive things just in the past several years that impacted my area. Not to mention Maria that indirectly impacted my area in that I still meet people displaced here from that tragedy. Many have made a brand new start of it.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2019/09/28/heres-why-internet-appears-deeply-invested-tropical-depression-named-karen/

  24. Susan Montgomery says

    @18 Fair enough, but I’ve noticed no one eschews the label when talking about the good things.

    I think that the times do shape who we are enough so that there can be distinct lines between age cohorts. I think that age colors our perception of events regardless of our politics.

  25. Porivil Sorrens says

    It’s silly to pretend that there’s no difference in material conditions between people born in the last 20 years and people born right after WW2.

    My parents paid off their piddly little student loans after a year of being self-employed and bought a house by the time they were 30, whereas I’m going to be paying off my loans for the rest of my life, despite making a lawyer’s pay, and I can barely afford an apartment.

    If I got a serious medical condition, it would literally bankrupt me, whereas they’re sitting pretty on decades of economic easy living, despite their numerous serious conditions.

  26. lochaber says

    I feel like a lot of it has to do with less about someone’s specific age, but more the general cohort of people who came of age in a (relatively) prosperous era, had all kinds of advantages, and benefited greatly from them, and then turned around and pulled up the ladder right behind them.

    Also, the idea of generations is pretty fuzzy, but didn’t this grouping and naming start with the baby boomers, due to the end of WWII?

    I dunno, I feel that “ok boomer” is more of a response to privileged condescending nonsense than a stand-alone insult.

  27. says

    I do think “ok boomer” comes from a justifiable place. Having to suffer through a bunch of articles about how “millenials are killing X”, only it turns out the reason millenials are killing X is because X is just a bad product, or because millenials are too poor to afford it. And I sure didn’t hear many older people complaining about generational generalizations when the generalizations were about millenials. And then there’s climate change, hard to deny that older generations dropped the ball on that one, and are continuing to drop the ball.

    My problem with “ok boomer” is that it is, at best, a snappy retort. A snappy retort can only be so good. It’s not like derision toward boomers starts and ends with a hashtag. My impression of thinkpieces about “ok boomer”, is that they praise it as oh so clever, then talk about how boomers and gen-xers just don’t get it. But if older audiences aren’t getting it, it sounds to me like it’s not so clever after all, and it’s just a way for younger people to feel good while doing nothing.

  28. hemidactylus says

    @30- Porivil Sorrens

    How much control have people over the conditions they are born into? My parents were born in the Depression. Only one maternal aunt, ironically, is a Democrat acknowledging the social benefits they got when my grandfather I never met died tragically early in their lives.

    Granted people of any generation may have been shortsighted as to their political decisions, but how much of what we see in hindsight as huge changes in our conditions were really in individual control? The whole corporacracy thing got started before my grandparents were born.

    So yeah your parents may have experienced relative ease compared to future generations, but did they have any effective power over that? Yeah there may be some retrospective intergenerational privilege thing going on, but can we point fingers or bash boomers because shit flows downstream? Did your folks have any effective power to have made a difference as to now?

  29. Ishikiri says

    They’re calling my daughter’s age cohort the “dying Earth” generation now? If that’s not enough cause to seize the means of production, I’m not sure what is.

  30. Porivil Sorrens says

    @33
    Nothing I said implies that I believe people have control over the conditions they were born into? 2/3 of your post addresses a point I never made.

    Insofar as to whether it’s okay to bash individual boomers, nah, but I’m just as fine with making fun of boomers as a group for their horrendously unjustifiable amounts of privilege and entitled aggravating posts on social media as I am posting about how straight cis white people are annoying for the exact same reasons.

  31. Colin J says

    I always thought these classifications were arbitrary and pretty much worthless. Although if I get to be classified as “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Generation”, I’m much more inclined to embrace it.

  32. seacreature says

    It drives me crazy when people say “Boomers attended college cheaply or else they got good manufacturing jobs.” First of all only about 1/5 of boomers went to college. And those manufacturing jobs? They were great. Until the mid 80s. As a Gen X person who grew up in a blue collar community in the rust belt it was horrible to watch my friends’ parents lose their jobs as factories went overseas or to Mexico. I was spared because my parents were “greatest generation.” When my dad’s plant closed he was able to do an early retirement. Others were not so lucky.

  33. hemidactylus says

    The way perception works is pretty warped. Looking at my genealogy my paternal side are Canucks (frickin’ Nova Scotian at that) and my dad and siblings could be construed as anchor babies. My mom’s dad was an ornery Swede bar brawler who died young.

    And yet “I get to be classified as “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Generation””? Egads! “Terminator Generation” maybe. Please not “St. Elmo’s Fire” generation. The “Breakfast Club” generation is better than that. Or “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”.

  34. Rob Grigjanis says

    I consider myself part of the Doctor Who generation. The one preceding the Davies/Gatiss/Moffat travesty, that is.

  35. springa73 says

    I think that for thousands of years older people have been complaining that the younger generation(s) don’t measure up in some way, and younger people have been complaining that the older generation(s) are out of touch with current realities. Sometimes, one or both of them is at least partly right. Sometimes they’re just lazy generalizations. The truth is that people in every generation make choices that seem best at the time, and hope for the best.

    I do agree that people born in the baby boom years who were able to go to college had financial advantages over young people doing the same today. Some of them are quite aware of this. Some 20 years ago my father (born 1947) told me (born 1975) that he felt bad for my generation, because most of us would find it much more difficult to improve our financial position than people his age did. This was long before the Great Recession, and addressed to gen X rather than millennials or gen Z, but I still think of it every time people say that boomers are clueless about the difficulties younger people face.

  36. lochaber says

    springa73@40>
    I took a couple of classics courses my first go at college, and one of the things that stood out enough for me to remember it, was one of the ancient Grecian plays (I want to say Aristophenes? maybe The Clouds? ) had a bit where a father was complaining about how lazy and worthless his kid’s generation was. Not much has changed over ~2,000 years.

    But, for what it’s worth, I don’t think the “ok boomer” retort would be directed at your father, as he acknowledged the differences. I feel it’s more directed at the self-unaware douchebags that like to vote against educational funding because “I worked part time busing tables to pay for college”, while somehow dismissing both the ever increasing cost of education, basic inflation, and the failure of minimum wage to keep up. And what’s arguably worse, is those boomers who do get that there is a difference, but either don’t care, or actively work against any sort of corrective measures, because opposing them is marginally more profitable for that particular boomer. Granted, there are some Gen Xers, and even a couple wealthy millennials that can be lumped in here, and it isn’t all boomers, and all that, but, well, it’s mostly a boomer thing…

  37. says

    I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that black boomers have (had) a very different experience from white boomers. As such, the whole classification into generations seems a white-western-centric idea to me.

  38. steve1 says

    OK bomber you broke the environment
    Ok Boomer you broke the government
    Ok boomer you broke the retirement

    It’s a work in progress.
    Factoid of the day Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Donald Trump all were born in 1946.

  39. says

    Come on, the fact that people born the same year may be as different as Obama and Hannity, doesn’t mean there are no overall statistical differences between generations.
    Of course people who grew up with black and white TV, threat of commie missiles and flipping burgers two months a year to pay for college will have more common experiences among themselves than with kids who grew up never knowing the world without smartphones.
    The issue is that broad generalizations may help explain statistical differences between groups of people born many years apart, but they will never explain differences between 2 specific persons or even people born closely to each other as “borders” between generations are extremely fuzzy
    It’s like Dutch being a tallest nation in the world on average doesn’t mean, all Dutch are tall or that other people are not tall.

    So in some context such generalizations are useful tool to start explaining some general trends. The problem starts with people who try to ascribe all stereotypical elements of a specific generation to one person or to divide people into separate baskets with everyone in specific basket being the same.
    But it is the same all story as with people who claim that when going on for a walk with a dog they statistically both have 3 legs.

  40. rpjohnston says

    I’m a hell of a lot more likely to be told that “radical” policies like M4A are vaguely, undefinably “too far”, that they would stop the gravy train, and that all those OTHER people might vote for kiddie death camps instead, by a Boomer than by a fellow Millenial. Conversely, I’m a lot more likely to hear not-completely-joking calls to guillotine the rich, burn the system to the ground, create a socialist utopia from my cohort than the older generations.

    Obligatory “not all”, of course.

  41. says

    it is the height of entitlement to only start complaining about the real problems of generational generations now that boomers are the object of derision.

    Millennials for more than a decade were mocked, degraded, derided en masse by the popular press (which not trivially is mostly not controlled by millennials). “OK Boomer” is a justified reaction to this and the minimal decent response warranted.

  42. says

    Go on and poison all the water, use up all the air
    Blow your stupid heads off, see if I could care
    Put me down but don’t blame me for what you did
    ‘Cause inside everyone is a heavy metal kid

    — Todd Rundgren, 1974

  43. says

    I feel like it’s more a frame of mind. I was born in the fuzzy boundary between gen X and the millenials but when I do a quick heuristic of the opinions and attitudes of people I know who fit the stereotype of either group I feel I should identify more as a millenial. I recall my older cousins on facebook reacting with shock that I would say such a thing, as I got a few replies of, “Oh no you’re not, you’re gen X.” As if there was something awful about being a millenial. Knowing where their political loyalties tend to lie my generational identity became much stronger in light of their protests.

  44. springa73 says

    Mike Smith @47

    What you’re describing is hardly unique to millennials. Every generation in the past century at least has gone through a period where the popular media criticized and ridiculed them. Mainstream media at least tends to be controlled by middle-aged and older people, who tend to think that younger people are doing everything wrong and screwing up the world in general. This bias shows in the way the media covers the younger generation(s). Generation X, the Boomers, even the “Greatest generation”, all went through periods where they were the targets of the members of concerned older generations worrying that they were messing things up. Before modern mass media, the basic attitudes have been around since pharaohs ruled Egypt. I’m sure that when Millennials become the ones in charge of most media, some of them will be just as enthusiastic about condemning the next generation.

  45. Porivil Sorrens says

    I for one welcome the day that my socialist gen z overlords have me executed for being a conservative by their standards.

  46. says

    @springa73

    Boomer, OK.

    (Nothing I said implied it was a unique to millennials. My point is what is good for the goose is good for the gander; you guys made the ground rules for so many things. I am just following them. Leave me with my spite. It is the only thing that warms me.)

  47. says

    My only regret is I won’t be around to see the Millenials turn into us the way we boomers have turned into our parents. Actually looking at all the young racists they already have.

  48. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    I gotta disagree markedly with PZ here.

    Yes, the lines between generations are porous. So what? That’s true of class, ethnicity, gender, etc. as well. We don’t toss those ideas out, we just recognize that they aren’t as fixed and clear as we may want them to be. Just because a person with $79,999 and $80,001 may be very similar despite being on two sides of an arbitrary income measurement doesn’t mean that billionaires and paupers aren’t very different. That’s a continuum fallacy.

    Yes, other factors are also critical: Class, whether or not you’re an immigrant, ethnicity, religion, region, etc. etc. But so what? Those are useful demarcations too, but that doesn’t mean that generation isn’t a useful demarcation.

    Yes, you can use a generation as a shorthand for a horoscope or a stereotype. But you can use ethnicity or religion or class the same way; doesn’t mean those aren’t real cleavages. Folks here tend to take for granted that, on average, a white male will have different biases and perceptions than a black woman. It’s also true that, on average, a person born in 1960 will have different biases and perceptions than people born in 1980.

    It makes sense, a priori, that different generational touchstones will have different impacts. Of course it matters that some generations grew up with a big war that threatened human civilization and others grew up after the collapse of the last major hegemon to be able to meaningfully challenge American power. (And it matters that the future American generations will have to adapt to the rise of China or whoever else). Of course different macrostructural and ecological conditions matter.

    And when you actually look, generations do hold up as a relevant variable even after you do controls. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280558255_Generational_Differences_Are_Real_and_Useful is an example. Pew’s data keeps finding consistent differences, and I doubt they would vanish even if you used a wide array of relevant independent controls.

    So when “What you’re describing is hardly unique to millennials. Every generation in the past century at least has gone through a period where the popular media criticized and ridiculed them” is said, for example, that may be true, but it might also be true that millennials have undergone more criticism. This one isn’t clear, of course, one would need to do some good data collection, but it is wholly possible that the threat that millennials pose to the dominant society both by being the first generation where the irrationality of the economy truly meant that they came of age in a market with incredibly limited opportunities to them and the fact that millennials seem to be on average sticking with activism and left-wing beliefs longer than the boomers did (as Chomsky pointed out, Gen X and millennials were protesting the Iraq War before it even happened while it took the hippie generation years of Vietnam to show up in force) would both make them come under attack. Millennials also get blamed for a lot of technological problems that Gen X and boomers created because they are easy scapegoats being the most visible users of those technologies. It’s an open question and one you actually have to check.

    My issue is more that the “Okay boomer” meme and similar inter-generational sniping ignores that previous generations of progressives had to build the groundwork for today. Yeah, a lot of hippies burnt out. But even then, as Michael Albert pointed out in The Stickiness Problem, how much of that was because they were really not all that committed and just wanted to get high and get laid before selling out versus how much of it being because the movement did a really crappy job of keeping people committed to Team Change? Moreover, I’ve worked with a ton of older activists who are still fighting the good fight and mentoring the next generation to be more patient, kind, loving, diligent and hard-working. I’d rather work across generational lines than yell at people, even if those people did screw up. So while I will respond to millennial-bashing by noting how arbitrary and stupid it is, it’s better to be doing coalition-building.

  49. says

    Here’s a take on generations that PZ Myers might agree with.

    The other day in a feminist group, I said that democracies usually end up being gerontocracies, the oldest generation ruling. Power passed this century from “greatest” to “silent” to “boomers” where we are now.

    After the election of Finland’s 34 year old Prime Minister and the anger of millenials and genZ, I am perfectly okay with genXers missing the chance to rule. Having our turn at the wheel isn’t the priority, the ship not sinking is.

  50. says

    Life’s too short to re-read the comments, but in case it hasn’t been covered, the Right wanted to drive a wedge between the generations of the Left’s coalition, and they started by phasing in their killing of so-called entitlements with a cutoff that would let people around my age collect the moneys we’d paid in while shafting the generation after.

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