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It’s The Classism, Stupid: Why ‘OK Boomer’ Is Not The Whole Story

Over the last month or so, the phrase ‘Ok Boomer’ has made its way into popular usage. I first saw the phrase used by a New Zealand MP to dismiss a condescending remark by a detractor. The term has come to represent a dismissal of old ideas, essentially a version of ‘Ok, you had your turn running the show, step aside’. In light of the current state of affairs, with corrupt politicians ruining the environment, society and everything else they touch, this does not seem unreasonable. But I want to encourage nuance in the use of the phrase. Is this a version of #notallboomers? Yes. Generalising is not a useful technique of argumentation, no matter how many clicks it gets. Rather than pointing the finger at an age group, we are better served by targeting the class who has caused the trouble: the greedy and corrupt oligarchs

#NotAllBoomers: They Are Not All to Blame (But Some Are)

It is true that many in the so-called Boomer generation grew up with many advantages: medicare, free university and so on. But they also worked very hard for what they have, and this should never be doubted. The crime came in the late 1980s when a Labor government introduced a partial payback of the cost of university, which had previously been free. They had their free education, you see, so this was no longer necessary. What should never be forgotten is that there is footage of Joe Hockey protesting for what he called ‘our right to free education’. One wonders what the current Prime Monster would have to say about that. However, what is interesting is that Hockey was right!

Bob Hawke’s decision to introduce the partial payback paved the way for John Howard to sabotage the economic participation of all future generations by making the payback 100%. Once again, they had their free education, so the policy was now redundant. The key point is that this had nothing to do with the Boomer generation (Howard was too old), but rather was the political class saying ‘for me and mine, not thee and thine’.

The Usefulness of ‘OK Boomer’

The phrase does have its place: dismissing the old and failed ideas of these corrupt kleptocrats who petulantly cling to power. We should set these failed ideas aside: tax cuts for the rich, coal as the only viable energy source and so on. These ideas have been tried and the last forty years of reality has shown that they do not work. If we are talking about ideas here, then yes, Ok Boomer has its place: failed ideas of generations past should be left in the past. But let us not forget why these failed and regressive ideas remain part of the ether: the oligarchs. Media moguls and the ultra-rich who, in the case of Clive Palmer (who is a boomer) quite literally tried to buy the election by spending tens of millions of his own money.

A Pattern Emerges: Class over Generation

I hope the examples of Clive Palmer, John Howard, and Bob Hawke have generated a pattern. Specifically, it is class rather than generation that is the cause of our current problems. While you might argue that I am generalising the rich as the cause, I have targetted specific examples. The point is that the problem is members of the Boomer generation, who, to paraphrase George Carlin, happen to be rich. It is, as I said above, these kleptocrats who petulantly cling to power despite being wrong for forty years who are the problem. Perhaps ‘Ok Wealther’ might be a more accurate term.

Conclusion: Debunking a Myth

It used to be said that people became more conservative in their political outlook as they aged. This was a sort of conventional wisdom, and like many forms of conventional wisdom, it is a load of crap. The reality is that age often correlates with the accumulation of wealth, which usually generates less uncertainty, and with it less need for change. I am doing just fine, thank you, nothing needs to change. This is, once again, an example of class over generation. Typically, each generation winds up better off financially than their parents were, and successive generations of this increase in wealth, and the associated tory turn that goes with it, generated this myth. Once more, it is not generation, it is class.

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23 comments

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  1. Keitha Granville

    We are boomers, but we are also lefties, greenies and definitely not of the wealthy class.

    I loathe what the ruling class is doing to our country, our world. I will fight tilI I die for change.

  2. New England Cocky

    OK, your proposal that “us Boomers” in general have caused the present Australian economic problems is flawed on many grounds. The actual causes lie deeper in history and some have a democratic basis.

    1). Take government funding of private schools. Originally instituted in the 1960s to overcome the atrocious classroom conditions in the too many Catholic parochial schools as a vote-buying way for the ALP to overturn the Menzies LNP government, it has become a middle class slush fund to support a child-minding service for aspirational middle class voters to establish social networks that may benefit their off-spring in later life. The quality of the academic education in most private schools is demonstrably less than state schools, so bored teachers and SES administrators who have escaped the chalkboard spend their remaining paid careers attempting to “improve the system” while causing negligible change.

    2). Then Taxation policy failures have very deep roots in 1788. Nothing could be done without a government subsidy or a free land grant or some present day tax benefit to mitigate the cost of the innovation. Unfortunately there were many innovations that were no more than “dream schemes”. Then the arrival of foreign owned multinational corporations cashed up with available funds or borrowing capacity swamped the taxation system with tax exemptions and revenue dropped like a stone. Don’t mention the various “rates for mates” schemes. Yet in Sweden successful business persons and corporations take pride in their tax payments for the benefit of the population, so why not in Australia? Perhaps it is the invidious influence of being Deputy Dawg to the USA (United States of Apartheid) that keeps Australians in navel dreaming.

    3). The induced and notorious “Australian cultural cringe” that still continues today in some influential conservative sectors and does Australia much harm, yet it persists like a cancer draining our national self confidence and mitigating our economic growth. Yet in 1929 when the Great depression began, Australia had the highest standard of living in the world, and was the leader in agricultural innovations increasing food production.

    This is reflected in the over conservative banking industry where borrowers have to demonstrate that any development loan is not a necessity to receive funding for innovative ideas, while hair brain schemes, like the 1987 Bank of NSW $44 MILLION loan to develop the air-space over the Bondi Junction railway station that was never repaid and written off due to some interesting accountancy practices.

    4). The “I’m alright Jack” philosophy identified as the cause of middle aged, middle class thinking fails our society because it promoted individualism, the alleged basis for American success. However, in reality, success can rarely be properly attributed to single individuals as the success of most ventures and schemes relies upon inputs from many individuals working in unison for a common shared goal. Egalitarianism, “look after your mates” as practiced in the military, community as provided by social and church organisations creates progress. The destructive forces of unrepressed megalomania destroy community for no good reason except personal satisfaction of that megalomaniac. Now why did you immediately think of Murdoch, Palmer, Stokes and Trumpery?

  3. Yea right

    many of the people on here are exceptions to the rule, as are many at universities and some other spaces but as a whole I feel frustrated with people reaching or at retirement age. Most I speak to are unable to see or do not want to see what is happening. A lot are up in arms about the so called cash ban including my parents. Great that’s fantastic, the cash ban is a terrible idea when combined with negative interest rates, but don’t talk to them about climate change ‘it’s crap’ or ‘only the cash ban affects me’. And let’s not even go there with LGBTI+ rights with this age group, as an LGBTI person most of the Discrimination directed at me in my day to day life comes from the older generation and religious people or both. Being an LGBTI person is mostly a non issue among the so called ‘Millenials’ and younger. I’m an ‘X’ if you want to put me in a box and as a whole feel disappointed with many in my generation too.

    I totally agree it’s wrong to label a group and generalise, but the numbers don’t lie, many are more conservative than the rest of the population. IMHO the memes are a bad idea, but I think it represents an underlying frustration with an age group that does need to get out of the way and let some fresh blood run the show especially in government.

    If I have upset somebody here that’s not my intention and I apologise but I feel that if there is to be a discussion on this specific issue it needs all perspectives.

  4. Wobbley

    I find it’s like every human endeavour, that there are always around 5% to 10% of people who deliberately or otherwise stuff it for everybody else. There was the older couple on seven thirty ipa the other night, as grey nomads, they couldn’t see why young people couldn’t emass wealth such as they did. It is a case of some privileged older white entitled Australians thinking that they belong at the head of the que and fuck anybody else for getting in the road of their entitlements. It makes me sick that the msm have chosen these greedy scum to represent the rest of us oldies who are definitely struggling under the fascist rabble in Canberra.

  5. RomeoCharlie29

    I am one of the first BB’s, born sept ‘45. Working class parents but an aspirational mother keen for her three children to be educated better than she and our father were. We all benefitted from a time of secure work and good wages which increased as we progressed. Marrying a prudent woman we had our first house at ages 25 and 22. In my entire life I was only unemployed for six months though I had a few precarious years freelancing. Over the years I have been disappointed by Laborover such things as HECS, the expansion of funding to non govt schools, privatisation of Telstra and Qantas but these are as nothing to my disgust at LNP governments which have systematically and corruptly shifted wealth to the richest while doing all they could to reduce the regulation that is supposed to control free market excesses. They have allowed decades of tax evasion and avoidance while squeezing those on welfare. Now I see that Albanese has picked up the weasel words “mutual obligation” which the likes of Hockey and Morrison use/d to identify the so-called “lifters and leaners”. I have not become more conservative in my old age, instead I am filled with disgust at what we have done to legitimate asylum-seekers, the kowtowing to both the US and China and the abrogation of any responsibility for responding to climate change. I support Greta Thunberg for her courageous stand, I vehemently oppose — and have joined public protests — over fracking. I realise that there is a world oligarchy of multinational arms manufacturers, financial interests and now retailing giants whose power exceeds that of individual governments in their ability to resist efforts to get them to pay fair taxes. Until the governments of the world unite to close tax havens, control the legal and illegal flow of money and take concerted effort to ensure taxes are paid and shared fairly, resources are exploited cleanly and fairly, and all people, everywhere receive a living wage then I have little expectation of change. And as a result I am sad for the generations coming behind me. I expect to die superficially happy and financially secure, but wondering what sort of world my two-year-old granddaughter and light of my life will experience.

  6. wam

    How true that getting old doesn’t send us into conservatism until we are rich.
    Those of us born before the start of the war up to 1945 cling to the pre-boomers status.
    We are nearly as rich as the boomers and, like them, rich enough to buy water @ $8 a litre, send great grandchildren to private schools and drive a silver nitrate coloured car. We are able to drive further than hockey’s observation but not rich enough to buy a house for them. We are happy to take them in for their ‘gap; year (or two) or chip in for uni.accommodation.
    So don’t blame us we did our national service and paid the cost of our education and passed our exams to get entry.
    Funny that as soon as vicechancellors could access government cash prerequisite exam score prerequisites disappeared or were easily ;subvented’. Bums on seats is the cash gatherer. .I wonder how the rabbott’s daughter’s alma mater is going with his igift of access to HECS??
    I feel sad when I see the private school adverts, so many catholics schools desperate for enrolment, showing children heading for indoctrination on government cash. No room for labor despite their involvement in funding the church.

  7. Kaye Lee

    From the statistical review conducted by Labor in analysing the election result:

    “When all other variables are controlled for, voters in the 25-34 year age group swung strongly against Labor, with an estimated swing of 4 per cent.

    Economically insecure, low-income voters in outer-urban and regional Australia swung against Labor. Tertiary-educated, higher-income Australians swung strongly to Labor.”

    Perhaps we need to consider ill-informed disengaged young people in this equation too.

  8. Michael Taylor

    I saw red over this: An article in news.com.au attacking the baby boomers for getting franking credits. Those baby boomers were destroying the country.

    Here’s some tips: 1) Not many of us get them, and 2) If you don’t like the idea of baby boomers getting franking credits then your paper should’ve gone harder on the LNP during the election campaign. Blame them.

  9. Kaye Lee

    Michael,

    Another aspect – many older people have been forced into the share market because the interest rate on term deposits is way too low and the deeming rate is still too high.

  10. New England Cocky

    @ ML: If Australian voters do not like BBs getting franking credits, then why did they vote for the COALiiton candidates in more electorates than they voted for Labor candidates? We got the government that Australian voters wanted, so suck it up and prepare for removing them at the first available opportunity.

  11. Dr Tim Jones

    New England Cocky

    Serious question: did you read what I wrote? It quite specifically included the hashtag #notallboomers, along with a discussion of why I do not think it is reasonable to blame all boomers for the current issues.

    To sugges that I argued anything else is inaccurate and a strawman

  12. Patricia

    While I hate to label people, only things should have labels on them, I was born a couple of years into the demographic, often reviled by later generations, known as the “boomers”.

    Now in my 70’s, comfortable, not wealthy, self funded retiree, still not wealthy, I worked every day from the age of 14 until 69.

    I have had two overseas holidays in my life. Not complaining, both of them were well worth every moment and every dollar that I spent.

    I travelled extensively with my work, very grateful for the opportunity that I made and was given.

    Now to my response to this article.

    “It used to be said that people became more conservative in their political outlook as they aged.”

    I tend to agree that this is a generalisation and that this also applies to many many people, not just “boomers”, I also agree that for many who have struggled in their early years and who have been able to make a comfortable life for themselves in the later years of their life that they often forget the struggle, other than to tell others of it, and how it felt.

    While they are blaming “boomers” for the ills of the world people should never forget while they are demonising the previous generations (and it has been done since forever), that they too will be old one day if they are lucky and they need to remember that their struggles will be seen as irrelevant by younger generations and that they too will be demonised for “doing the wrong thing”, “ruining the world for future generations” etc. etc. etc. unless they stop and change their rhetoric from demeaning and demanding to inclusive and concilatory they might just build bridges rather than dig hidden trenches.

    I have met many people much younger than me who have such closed minds and set in concrete views that one wonders how that happens, that they are not open to the future and the changes that it brings. It is a defence against change and it is done through fear and lack of understanding. It happens in all generations and if we want to blame “boomers” for raping the planet of its wealth and hoarding it we also need to look at politicians in so called modern democracies and ask ourselves, is this how we see our future?

  13. leefe

    Boomerism is a mindset, not an age group or a class.

  14. Michael Taylor

    Kaye – another thing …

    I grew up on Kangaroo Island that was opened up for soldiers settlers in the 1950s. All the kids at my little school grew up with a father who fought in the war. They were all alcoholics, tough, and had darkness in their hearts. It was hell. We didn’t have a father, in some aspects.

    It wasn’t until I read Kakoda about ten years ago that I realised what my Dad went through. Fuck I cried. No wonder he was like he was. I never, ever knew.

    I phoned him straight away to thank him. He then opened up and told me what it was like.

    Yep, we Boomers had it easy. Not.

  15. totaram

    Kaye Lee: Statistical review conducted by Labor. Ha,ha!
    Really? They didn’t go any deeper and look at state-wise results?
    They should have gone seat-wise. Are they even serious about this “statistical review”?
    What are they trying to whitewash? Everyone knows they lost in Queensland and WA. Do they assume everyone is ignorant of statistics?
    Seriously, one wonders what they are up to. I am really annoyed by this nonsense.
    Oh, I am also a boomer. Well-off thank you. My dad also fought in WW2. so there.

  16. wam

    I am not far just at the bottom of yorkes pen, michael,
    Till the early 50s they put my dad in daws road a couple of times a year and wired him up. I can still see the shufflers that were wandering when we visited. By 1958 he was TPI and we were in a trust home.
    He never opened up but we eventually went to the Seaton RSL.
    ps totaram
    True, iif labor didn’t lose two seats in NORTH queensland shorten may be pm. Is there an obvious reason for those TWO losses?
    pps
    Totaram
    Under either of those conditions WA was irrelevant
    you are right poor old labor got a raw deal and self inspection has found an answer that is good enough to satisfy the mass.
    if labor didn’t ;lose bass and braddon shorten may be pm

  17. Michael Taylor

    wam, you could shoot over to Corny Point and grab yourself some King George whiting.

    I’m eating some now, but it’s just not the same as what you get in SA.

  18. New England Cocky

    @Dr Tim Jones: Your above comment inspired me to read this article again and left me somewhat confused.

    To my interpretation, the article hypothesises that wealth creates indifference to the social conditions of others having less wealth for whatever reason. But that is not my experience of life. Just one example, the retired university academics and property developers who volunteered to operate the Armidale 2019 Vinnies Drought Relief Programme distributing the meagre $3,000 per farming family drought pittance ….. while foreign owned multinational oil search corporations received BILLION dollar tax advantages ….. for creating climate change.

    The article, in my view, correctly identifies the main historical characters leading/causing the demise of the Australian standard of living without noting the mechanism of accountants corrupting the sliding tax scales to legally maximise the profits of their clients. The Scandinavians have the correct attitude, taxes should be used for the benefit of the community, rather than be considered another source of corporate revenue.

    However, does the article analyse the root causes generating the “I am doing just fine, thank you, nothing needs to change” attitude among SOME BBs, or does it return to the easier “I have climbed the greasy pole to success and wealth and now I want the pole cut off to reduce over-crowding at the top” attitude that this article implies?

    Then, upon consideration, my regional experience may be different to those living in a metropolitan concentration camp. Every cattle sale day, buyers rub shoulders with peasants struggling to stay ahead of rising living costs and multi-millionaires trading in many multiples of the basic wage. Multinational corporations have recognised that Australian farming land is a genuine bargain buy especially since the present Lazy Nasty People misgovernment allows unmitigated MDB water theft to grow bumper cotton crops during no pump seasons. And here is the rub. The Australian cockies are still thinking 19th century crops and remaining in the world market buyer controlled price prison while the newcomers, backed by apparently unlimited bank credit, are growing new crops without any concern except for the quantum of profits. Think family orchard enterprises vs broad acre almonds.

    Then again, perhaps your opinion is based on my lack of comprehension as to the meaning of the term “hashtag #notallboomers”. Either way, I found this a stimulating article. Thank you.

  19. Trish Corry

    I just think the “Left” stigmatising any group is a complete betrayal to our ideology. Especially as many boomers are now pensioners. When the hell did it become ok to attack older people and think it’s funny? Yes. It’s about class. There are plenty of people in the Gen X age group who made heaps in the internet boom. There are plenty of wealthy millennials. They hand out for LNP at booths and they ooze entitlement and there are plenty of wealthy environmentalists. But do we broadly categorise all of them and point the finger at each generation? No. We just keep pushing to redress inequality across ALL generations. The right divides us enough. Yes. It’s about class. Thanks Tim. An interesting article.

  20. corvus boreus

    I’m not a climate change denier, but…
    ‘Climate activism comes from a position of privilege’.

    Ps, The RFS reps ROTFPTSL when I brought up the ‘sprinkler and drone’ suggestions.

  21. Trish Corry

    Oh Corvus, stop being so obvious. It’s getting old. There is a serious argument with a change imposed upon us, one greater than the industrial revolution that the activism and demands to deal with that change should be very mindful of the poor and disadvantaged. Historically anything to do with environmentalism is not. Revolutionary products are more readily available to the middle to upper class and home owners. The significant change moving away from heavy industry if not done right, will result in mass joblessness. Enviros scream now all over social media that we no longer have time for a transition. That voice is growing. There is no activism voice to share the burden of change across both cities and regions. It’s all pointed to regions to wear the cost and sacrifice. Ever been to Sydney? The air there is disgusting, There are significant emissions reductions that could occur in cities, but it would be too much of an inconvenience, also, unless the entire world collaborates to balance coal and renewables, or don’t consider impoverished countries, the poor will suffer. So yes, privilege awareness is important. But it’s not the me who has the close minded view. It’s you. Incapable of considering other views. You can’t think beyond the mainstream meme view, awaiting some imaginary applause on the AIMN for copping Trish good. How old are you? 12?

    As per the sprinkler and drone suggestion, I led with that it was probably niaive, but I’d rather say something and create a conversation about solutions and be laughed at, than say nothing at all. Some of the world’s greatest inventions started out with a stupid idea. You are the sort that would try to intimidate people to not speak up. Someone who divides people between like and laugh at. Believe me. I’d rather be me, than anyone like that. PS Grow up. I’ve been here six years and I’m sick to death at being sniped at every time I comment. Even if I’m always told it’s in my head when it’s right there in text. Enough. Seriously. No one deserves this type of derision constantly. It’s just sad and pathetic. Stop ruining good articles with this rubbish.

  22. corvus boreus

    Trish Corry,
    Given your incessant belittlement of both the validity of escalating (science-based) environmental concerns and the underlying motivations of those who express them, I have come to the conclusion that you are probably either a reactionary anti-environmentalist (who once had their feelings badly hurt by a greenie) or someone whose ‘group behavioural management’ work includes contracts with fossil fuel extraction interests.
    Either way, it seems that seeing quotations from your own constant anti-climate-change-activist-activism upsets you.

    Ps, Regarding your ‘sprinkler-drones’ brain-shart, ‘naive’ doesn’t even begin to describe…

  23. Kaye Lee

    Trish,

    IMO you have overreacted.

    I agree we must address inequality across ALL generations.

    We should not have people living in poverty in such a wealthy country.

    Why have we got record company profits yet stagnant wages?

    Why are we asking older people to work longer when we have high youth unemployment?

    Why did they freeze the increase in the superannuation guarantee when we know we must help prepare for an aging population?

    Why are we making students pay for university education?

    Ideas are good. Sometimes they won’t work. Keep coming up with more and be informed by those with experience to refine or reject them.

    Added note: At 30 June 2017 there were around 251,400 people aged 50 or over receiving Newstart Allowance. As the age to receive the aged pension continues to increase to 67, expect that number to grow.

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