Did you remember to set your clocks back?
I read a story in the New York Times this week about Millennials and Gen Z-ers and their frustration with us Boomers. (‘OK Boomer’ Marks End of Friendly Generational Relations,’ Taylor Lorenz, 10/29/2019). Three things struck me in reading this. First is the cyclical nature of the generation gap which Boomers experienced when Rock and Roll ruined our morals and the Beatles, with their long locks, blew the socks off our parents. The second was how the focus has shifted to Millennials calling out Boomers who have failed to address and take responsibility for the current state of our environment. Finally, and perhaps most perversely, the entire article was written from the point of view of how Millennials are calling out Boomers by selling products (so-called “meme-to-merch”) on social media. (Click here for link to article).
Taking each of these one by one, let’s take a look at this marketing campaign first. Gen Z-er’s are taking the phrase, “OK, Boomers”, putting it on clothes, artwork, and other surfaces, then selling it online. It is capitalist and entrepreneurial in spirit, artistic in execution, and ironic and funny in its castigation of us old farts who don’t care enough about the world to save it. “OK, Boomers” is now a meme-to-merch social media sales pitch. It is dismissive, denigrating, and suggests that, as Lorenz writes, “. . . monetizing the boomer backlash is their [Gen Z-er’s] own little form of protest against a system they feel is rigged.” It is, however, derivative.
As with most memes, there is a modicum of truth in what is being held up for scorn. I frequently wonder what has happened to our generation. We had such aspirations. Peace, equality, justice, access to quality weed and good music. Where did we lose our way? Was it because peace wasn’t achievable just by marching in protest? Was it because equality is a concept that has many permutations and frequently is put on the back burner once I have my share of the pie? Was it because justice is a living thing that needs more than blind adherence to rules and regulations and requires each of us to take responsibility for our actions and their effect on others? Was it because good weed was way too easy to get and smoking it felt better than dealing with the pain and suffering it numbed us to? When was that day when the music died?
How did our generation elect the current Congress? We had Kennedy! How did we let our government become so corrupt? We got rid of Nixon! When did we become Beaver’s parents? We have to face facts. We have not honored the inheritance we received. We have partied too long. It is time we put away those things that numb us and begin to feel the fear and pain and suffering that surrounds us. We are not immune! And we contributed to it.
At some level I find comfort in realizing that this is not the first time there has been a generation gap. Although it is not possible to confirm the following attribution as being historically accurate, I share its sentiment. According to Plato, Socrates once remarked, “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”
So, “OK, Gen-Z’ers and Millennials”, what are we going to do about all this? Here is my proposal. It is steeped in Christian values, but if one takes a moment to check around, these values are found in every spiritual practice and culture that has inhabited this planet. Here are words that inspire me to act.
1 Corinthians 13 New International Version (NIV)
13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Paul asks a lot of us here, but offers us a remarkable return on our investment. It is time for us to put away the ways of childhood. We must all grow up and accept responsibility for what resources we consume on this planet. We must take an active stand against injustice and do it not from a place of judgment, but from a far more humble place of acknowledging that we are only acting out of fear of our own short-comings. I must share all that I know so that others can unburden themselves and we can experience learning from each other instead of competing against each other.
I have faith that we will find a way through what feels like very dark times. I have hope that I will not have to walk that path alone. I can act from love because I have been loved.