Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the two-word dismissive, “OK Boomer” had anchored itself into pop culture. Meant as a rebuttal from a younger generation to Baby Boomers for their rigid mindset and on-going condescension of a younger generation’s politics and culture.
While the catchphrase can be traced back to 2015, the phrase took off last year via TikTok, from the song “Ok Boomer!” by Peter Kuli & Jedwill. The fact that the term was essentially “launched” on TikTok – the social media playground of Gen Z’s – is significant.
If there was a generational divide before the pandemic, the coronavirus crisis will cleave a chasm between Baby Boomers and Gen Z’s in particular.
Greta Thunberg – the “Joan of Arc” of Gen Z climate change activists around the world – illustrates the pre-pandemic divide perfectly. Older, white males in particular have a visceral dislike of Thunberg. For Thunberg’s supporters, the feeling is mutual.
This generation lays the blame for the scale and depth of the environmental, political, social and economic turmoil the world is now enduring, squarely at the feet of Baby Boomers. And the pandemic has only served as confirmation of their convictions: specifically corporate greed and social inequality.
In his article Capitalism is Literally Killing America author Umair Haque, alleges that, “The White House backed out of a deal to manufacture ventilators [for the pandemic] because the price tag was too high.” The price tag? One billion dollars.
He argues that the American economy is worth about $20 trillion and $1 billion would only cost America “one twenty thousandth, or .00005% of economic growth, to save countless lives. He also points out that one billion dollars is negligible small change for the world’s wealthiest businessmen: Jeff Bezos is worth $113 billion. Mark Zuckerberg, $60 billion. And Warren Buffett, $70 billion.
It’s the kind of inequitable comparison that simply raises their, already high, social justice barometer another notch higher.
The pandemic will be a defining life event for Generation Z, much the same way 9/11 and the 2008 global financial crisis shaped the millennial generation’s views on global politics and economics.
It will reaffirm their convictions around climate change, corporate greed, social inequality, and global solidarity. It will also give them impetus to shout out, “I told you so” to an x older generation.
As a generation that is now coming of age, they represent, not only the next global consumer base, but also an employer’s new workforce. The post-pandemic, new world order, which the world will struggle to adapt to, is what Gen Z’s have been waiting for. As the first generation of true digital natives, the courage of their convictions will converge into a potent force that will reengineer the old-world order in the next decade.
For business owners, best you sign up for a TikTok account. You’d better familiarise yourself with the revolution that’s headed your way.