Here’s hoping our Age of Ageism is a brief one

A few days ago a Twitter exchange contained an “OK Boomer” response to one of my tweets. At the time I laughed it off, tweeting back a pointer to Report: Burying, Cremating Baby Boomers To Generate $200 Trillion In GDP, which ran five years ago in The Onion.

But it got me thinking that “OK Boomer” might be more—and worse—than a mere meme. Still, I wasn’t moved to say anything, because I had better stuff to do.

Then today I followed a link to Not So OK, Boomers, on Pulp. Illustrated by Goya’s horrifying Saturn Devouring His Son, it ends with this:

Goya’s Saturn does not swallow his children whole, but has taken chunks out of the body, chewing off the head and the limbs.

The cannibalism Boomers are inflicting on us appears to be closer to Goya’s vision: deranged, irreversible, and violent. Unwilling to accept a world that goes on without them, they are gluttonously consuming resources.

Their own lives have been extended, but without any appreciable gains in quality of life, and so in their rage, their confusion, they poison the air and water, they raise our cortisol levels.

What do we do with the knowledge that our parents are actively trying to harm us but are incapable of accepting the suffering they’re inflicting?

Our response is going to have to be better than depression memes and the odd glib, ‘OK Boomer,’ if we’re going to survive.

That got 2,200 claps. So far.

So this time I responded, with this:

I like Pulp, perhaps because I’ve been young a long time. But this piece is worse than wrong. It’s cruel and inflammatory.

To see how, answer this: Is there moral difference between prejudice against a race, a gender, an ethnicity, a nationality—and a demographic? If there is, it’s one of degree, not one of kind.

As soon as you otherize any human category as a them vs. an us, you’re practicing the same kind of prejudice—and, at its worst, bigotry.

Try substituting the words “women” or “blacks” for the word “Boomers” in this piece, and you get the point.

Ageism may not be worse than sexism or racism, but it’s still an ism, good only for amplifying itself, which seems to be the purpose of this piece.

Read the closing paragraphs again and ask what kind of action the author calls for that would be proportional to the cannibalism he accuses Boomers of inflicting on his generation.

And then hope it doesn’t happen.

That got 10 claps. So far.

But what the hell, I’ll continue.

If young people want to understand old people (which Boomers are, or soon will be) I suggest this: imagine that if a fifth, then a quarter, then a third, then half, and then most of the people you grew up or worked with in your life—friends, cousins, co-workers, classmates—are now dead. And that meanwhile you’re putting your useful experience and wisdom to work as best you can while you’re still able, knowing that, too soon at any age, you’ll be gone too.

There’s no shit you can give a person like that, sitting on the short end of life’s death row, that can measure up to their intimate familiarity with mortality, and with the work they still face, most of which they’ll never finish. So an “OK Boomer” put-down isn’t going to bother most of them.

But it’s still shit. Or worse.

We can all do better than that.