Hannah Peters/Getty Images for Television New Zealand
Though “OK, boomer,” began making the digital rounds some time in early 2019 — or at least early enough for someone to remix it into a song in July — the phrase finally hit the cultural stratosphere in late October, when the New York Times presented a deep dive on the topic. At once a withering dismissal of the baby boomer generation’s derision of Gen Z’s very real fears regarding the climate crisis and fiscal inequity, a great reply to use on your crotchety uncle this Thanksgiving, and a meme with plenty of merch potential, the phrase is already getting blowback from the very people it is meant to poke fun at (to which… OK, boomer).
And now, in addition to going viral, the phrase has cemented itself into the annals of history: On Tuesday (November 5), New Zealand Parliament member Chlöe Swarbrick used “OK, boomer” to shut down a heckler who scoffed at her as she gave a speech about the climate crisis.
“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 it behind closed doors? My generation and the generations after me do not have that luxury,” 25-year-old Swarbrick, a member of the Green party who assumed office in 2017, said during her address, per the Washington Post. “In the year 2050, I will be 56 years old; yet, right now, the average age of this 52nd Parliament is 49 years old,” she said. (This is mirrored in the U.S., where the average age of members of the U.S. Congress is 57.8, while U.S. Senators average 61.8 years old, meaning that, across the world, the people who vote on policies that largely affect future generations likely won’t be around to see much of those effects come to life.)
It was at that moment that someone heckled her out of the frame. Swarbrick didn’t miss a beat: “OK Boomer,” she said, before continuing her speech.
“Current political institutions have proven themselves incompetent at thinking outside of a short political term,” she said. “Change is so regularly sacrificed for power slogans are easy but this stuff, this action, is hard. Climate action cannot be sacrificed anymore for political convenience. Climate change is a deeply inconvenient truth.”
Swarbrick’s address was in regards to the country’s Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment bill, which has earned the support of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who in September urged world leaders to take action at the United Nations summit. But it seems that some people took more offense at Swarbrick’s use of the generational nickname than of her correctly naming their apathy and incompetence at addressing one of the biggest crises of our time.
“Today I have learnt that responding succinctly and in perfect jest to somebody heckling you about *your age* as you speak about the impact of climate change on *your generation* with the literal title of their generation makes some people very mad,” she wrote on Facebook about the people born between 1946 and 1964 who seem to spend plenty of time complaining about how sensitive young people are, but conveniently forget about how riled up they get about criticism themselves.
Nevertheless, Swarbrick saved the best dunk for last: “So I guess millennials ruined humour,” she added. “That, or we just need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and abstain from avocados.”