Neil Howe On The Fourth Turning: How Bad Will It Get, How Long Will It Last & What Comes Next? (Part 1)

33:29
i mean actually a good example of that
33:31
would be
33:32
boomeranging back home
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boomers did not boomerang okay
33:37
and i remember uh the the great
33:40
recession of of uh 8283 you know when
33:43
you went into the reagan administration
33:45
volcker was tightening rates and so on
33:47
it was a really pretty bad recession
33:49
boomers would do anything rather than
33:51
return they would like sleep under a
33:53
bridge or something right but they would
33:55
not go back home right
33:57
that boomerang stuff started with gen
34:00
xers in the 90s
34:02
and with millennials they don’t return
34:04
home they just never leave
34:06
they just keep their bedroom there and
34:08
you know they’re always
34:09
and you understand what i mean just a
34:11
very different kind of relationship
34:14
uh where i think there’s a little bit of
34:16
inversion is when it came to actually
34:19
major structural substantive reforms and
34:22
how the system worked and how it
34:23
actually you know allocated income and
34:25
rewards and how we actually built for
34:28
our future
34:29
pumas had no problem with the gis were
34:31
doing i mean they obviously ran things
34:33
really well in fact the whole problem
34:35
with the gi generation is they ran
34:36
things too well they invested too much
34:38
right it’s too much repression you know
34:40
we need to enjoy yourself more for today
34:43
the millennial problem with boomers is
34:46
just the opposite right
34:48
boomers can’t run anything
34:50
they can’t exercise authority they can’t
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invest in anything they can’t do
34:55
anything for the long term right they
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don’t know how to run the system at all
34:59
and this is why i say that the
35:01
fundamental problem in an awakening
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is that the public senses that
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institutions are supplying too much
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order
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but the fundamental problem of a crisis
35:10
the fourth journey
35:12
is that the public be particularly the
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younger public begins to sense that
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institutions aren’t supplying enough
35:18
order and that is always the context for
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a crisis right
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and by the way i mean just just
35:25
mentioning you know you said where might
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this lead
35:27
every fourth turning in american history
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has featured a total war
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um
35:34
and all total wars in american history
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have come in a fourth turn right you
35:38
don’t want to think about that you know
35:40
this goes all the way back to the
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anglo-american
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circular you know going back in the
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early modern era you know in the british
35:47
history
35:48
but this is a pattern now sometimes it’s
35:50
um
35:51
it’s so it is
35:53
we don’t say that war is necessary
35:56
for a fourth turning but that sense of
35:58
total public urgency and the need to
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band together and create a new sense of
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community
36:04
is always required at some point before
36:06
the fourth turning is over okay
36:09
so this is something that’s just simply
36:11
i just observe historically now
36:14
sometimes this struggle
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this conflict
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is we think of it mostly in terms of you
36:20
know america taking on enemies abroad
36:22
right and i think that’s the idea that
36:24
good war and we we all think of world
36:26
war ii you know we took on the axis
36:28
powers and we conquered half the world
36:30
right uh you know fascism and yeah
36:33
exactly yeah you know germany and italy
36:35
and japan
36:37
uh but we forget that that era started
36:39
out with the new deal which was
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not exactly a civil war but it was a
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highly contentious ideological conflict
36:47
in america right which deeply divided
36:49
americans about the new role of
36:51
government and you know it had its court
36:54
packing threats and you know everything
36:56
else that happened uh in the first new
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deal and the second new deal and and fdr
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finally getting this incredible victory
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in 1936 right finally just becoming
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absolutely dominant politically
37:08
and pushing through these new
37:11
this whole new role for government and
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the economy right
37:15
um but ultimately we all remember how it
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all came together in world war ii which
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is more kind of you know america versus
37:20
the world but it’s useful to go back in
37:23
earlier conflicts and many of these
37:25
actually had a very major
37:27
a civil dimension of conflict obviously
37:29
the civil war was literally
37:32
a civil war right no need to explain
37:34
there the american revolution however is
37:37
interesting for people to know that the
37:39
american revolution at the time was
37:42
referred to by most more americans as a
37:45
civil conflict as a civil war rather
37:47
than as a revolution it had a very
37:50
strong element of patriot-on-tory
37:52
conflict within the united states
37:54
particularly within the southern states
37:56
the backwoods regulators actually
37:58
supported the british because they hated
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these big plantation owners near the
38:02
coast who were always lording it over
38:04
them right in other words it exploited
38:07
and the british at one point did what
38:08
abraham lincoln did he promised freedom
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to the blacks
38:12
and one of the things the british
38:14
couldn’t understand as well these
38:15
planters were you know constantly
38:17
talking about liberty
38:19
you know and and yet they had all these
38:21
things so the british said well we’re
38:22
gonna use that as a weapon we’re gonna
38:24
we’re gonna promise freedom to anyone
38:26
who wants to help that’s exactly what
38:28
abraham lincoln did right with his
38:30
emancipation proclamation about 80 90
38:32
years later
38:34
um
38:36
in dittos you go back in earlier crisis
38:38
in other words very often there’s a very
38:40
strong internal component
38:42
to the crisis even while it also has an
38:44
ex i mean obviously there’s an external
38:46
component the american revolution we had
38:48
to fight
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you know fight the british and uh you
38:51
know defeat them finally at yorktown and
38:54
and you know they all evacuated by uh
38:56
1783 they were gone
38:59
but then again we were in chaos after
39:01
that right and then we had to actually
39:03
forge a new constitution and in some
39:05
ways that was the real climax of the era
39:08
as being able to actually then agree on
39:10
a powerful central government
39:13
and to some extent i would say that
39:14
there was the miracle of of 1788 which
39:17
is even more amazing than the miracle of
39:20
you know 1781 which is the the defeating
39:24
of uh
39:25
of uh you know clinton and cornwallis so
39:29
so anyway that’s i i think that but it
39:31
probably illustrates your point that
39:32
there is an important
39:34
internal dimension i think it’s no
39:36
be no surprise today
39:39
looking in america that people are going
39:40
to say yeah i get the internal component
39:44
right now right red zone versus blue
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zone i mean my god the two sides don’t
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even talk to each other you know i live
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in dc i mean i’ve been sort of a dc guy
39:54
uh they don’t even talk to each other
39:55
now i mean there’s literally practically
39:57
no communication there’s nothing to say
39:59
at this point adam
40:01
you know
40:02
right so when you have mutually
40:04
exclusive ideas
40:06
of what the country’s future is
40:09
how does democracy work right are you
40:12
going to completely forfeit your future
40:14
just because the other guy gets i don’t
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know half a percent more votes
40:18
no it doesn’t work that way does it and
40:21
here’s the irony and this has been
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pointed out by some you know brilliant
40:25
uh carl becker pointed that out in 1940
40:28
just as we were going into world war two
40:29
he said one of the problems with
40:31
democracy
40:33
this democracy only works
40:35
really well
40:36
when the problems you’re trying to solve
40:38
are pretty trivial
40:42
i mean think about it if it’s a
40:44
fundamental problem how does democracy
40:46
work
40:48
right and and i think
40:50
kovid may have even sort of reinforced
40:51
that argument where you looked at some
40:53
of the more totalitarian governments and
40:55
you can say whether it’s right or wrong
40:57
uh but they certainly took measures to
40:59
clamp down uh
41:01
and and really stop the virus spreading
41:03
its tracks in a way that a democracy
41:05
just couldn’t i agree and there’s a
41:07
there’s a great uh a wonderful
41:10
compendium of worldwide polls done run
41:12
by the cambridge institute for for a
41:15
democracy
41:16
uh by a guy named roberto fowa and he
41:18
and
41:19
have written a lot on this issue of
41:20
growing inequality but particularly
41:23
in the turning away of younger
41:25
generations in america
41:27
particularly millennials
41:29
not just in america but around the world
41:31
from the whole idea of liberal democracy
41:34
it’s it’s becoming less popular less
41:36
interesting and important
41:38
amazingly enough there are a lot more
41:40
younger people today
41:41
who are willing to say yeah let a
41:43
dictator you know handle things for a
41:45
while right
41:47
meaning that
41:48
this liberal democracy that all these
41:51
boomers and silent talk about
41:53
has done nothing for us
41:56
it just feathers the bed of all these
41:59
older people and all these in you know
42:01
uh dysfunctional institutions which
42:04
aren’t doing anything for our future
42:06
right
42:07
and that sense of that sense of being
42:09
turned off
42:11
uh and being much more willing and open
42:14
to a more autocratic it doesn’t really
42:17
matter too much whether it’s on the left
42:18
or the right you understand what i mean
42:20
or it could be some crossbreed between
42:22
them
42:23
well in in you know in some ways um
42:27
you know
42:28
can you blame the younger generation um
42:30
in the sense that it’s seeing all the
42:32
spoils go to the older generations as
42:34
we’ve talked about
42:35
um and you know you get
42:38
somebody that’s promising them for
42:40
education free health care whatever you
42:42
know the the platforms of those more
42:45
progressive uh you know political
42:47
parties sound pretty appealing right hey
42:49
look if i’m if i’m going to struggle i
42:50
may as well you know struggle and get
42:52
something so you said you know part of
42:53
the fourth turning is
42:55
is basically seeing the rise of a
42:57
recentralization of power
42:59
and i think that that’s probably one of
43:01
the drivers that will will drive you
43:04
know the um
43:05
resumption of central state power and
43:07
here in the states i mean we’re we’re
43:09
seeing this state get involved in ways
43:11
that it hasn’t been a long time
43:13
right no you’re right well i mean think
43:15
about it for for uh most of the year in
43:17
2020
43:19
uh the state took over everything i mean
43:21
we all became words of the state right
43:24
businesses households everyone i mean
43:26
nothing
43:27
remotely close to that has happened in
43:29
american history
43:31
now that example won’t go away quickly
43:34
you know what i mean people will
43:35
remember that yeah that you can do that
43:38
right
43:39
every window is dependent on the state
43:41
even major corporations you know to
43:44
renew their turnover their loans i mean
43:46
everything right the combination of
43:48
huge fiscal largesse plus the fed policy
43:52
right yeah the stimulus has been i mean
43:54
unprecedented yeah and and it and it by
43:57
the way it rewrites the rules of the
43:59
regime
44:01
um and you know i’ve pointed that out i
44:03
mean if you look at the six quarters of
44:06
the pandemic
44:08
and compare them to the quarter before
44:10
the pandemic you know the last quarter
44:12
of 2019
44:14
we’ve had something like a
44:16
seven percent growth in real disposable
44:19
personal income
44:20
at the same time we’ve had a two percent
44:22
decline or nearly three percent decline
44:25
actually in real gdp
44:28
that is unprecedented right a 10
44:31
percentage point gap between what we’re
44:34
earning to be able to spend
44:36
and what our economy is producing i’ve
44:38
gone back and look at all the earlier
44:40
recessions that gap is never more than
44:42
like one and a half percent
44:44
so where did all that free money come
44:46
from
44:47
it came from
44:48
borrowing it came from borrowing and it
44:52
came from
44:53
first of all borrowing by the federal
44:55
government
44:56
which we’ve seen it ramped up we went
44:58
into the recession by the way already
45:00
under trump at a
45:02
federal deficit of nearly five percent
45:04
of gdp that was already a record for a
45:07
non-recession year before the panda we
45:10
were 4.8 percent of gdp
45:13
um and you know everyone was fine with
45:15
that
45:16
uh
45:18
uh jerome powell is fine with that you
45:19
know donald trump is obviously fine with
45:21
that
45:23
and then
45:24
the next two years are at 12.5 percent
45:27
of gdp right so that was an extra five
45:30
and a half percent of gdp kicker in two
45:32
years well that translates into about 10
45:35
of dpi right disposable personal income
45:37
so that’s how you get there right
45:40
this changes the rules of the regime and
45:44
the reason why so many people have been
45:46
faked out in the market
45:48
and i mean if you had told if you had
45:50
told people back in the worst days of
45:52
march
45:53
back in 2020
45:55
that we were going to
45:57
you know the s p 500 was gonna double
45:59
again
46:01
in three well i think if you told them
46:02
first the global economy is you know
46:04
gonna shrink in in the next one yeah but
46:06
eight months what do you think’s gonna
46:07
happen the s p nobody would guess it
46:09
would double
46:10
well exactly that it was gonna double
46:12
and oh by the way and they would have
46:14
already disbelieved you but if you told
46:16
them that in addition to doubling
46:19
uh the
46:20
employment level in america would still
46:22
be would still be lingering about five
46:24
percent below where it was at the
46:27
beginning and that we’d be having close
46:29
to 2 000 deaths per day
46:31
after 18 months and yet we’d see this
46:34
and picked up they would have thrown you
46:35
out of the room right
46:37
and and meanwhile we’ve had the the 40th
46:39
anniversary of the of the you know bond
46:42
uh bull market right we we we saw
46:45
september 30 1980 we had bonds 10-year
46:49
yield at 15.8 something i think 15.84
46:54
what’s going on with that at a time now
46:56
when the economy is recovering the
46:58
the s p 500 doubled
47:01
i mean how do you see bonds so low well
47:03
turns out now they’re they’re not quite
47:04
so low
47:06
maybe they’re
47:07
maybe they’re shifting in a slightly
47:08
different direction now
47:10
but here’s the point why do the old
47:12
rules don’t work why do the all those
47:15
all those valuation rules you know that
47:17
we talked about like like you know
47:19
schiller’s pe
47:21
you know
47:23
you know earnings to sales ratios or or
47:25
uh right they just haven’t mattered for
47:28
the past half decade yeah
47:30
so they’ve all you know they’re they’re
47:32
off the charts they’ve all been
47:33
screaming
47:34
sell but if you had sold recently you
47:37
would have been killed right
47:39
so i this is a really important question
47:41
for investors
47:42
why are all these rules not working and
47:44
i would submit that we’re changing
47:46
regimes now
47:48
we’re going from an old regime which we
47:50
we call you know sort of the neoliberal
47:52
regime the fed just you know buys and
47:55
sells the short end influence interest
47:57
rates over the business cycle and they
47:59
and the federal government keeps the
48:01
budget reasonably balanced because they
48:02
can’t expect the fed to bail it out
48:04
right and then you know a little bit
48:06
maybe uh in a crisis the fed will
48:10
offer credit at penalty rates kind of
48:12
the old budget rule
48:14
in the new regime which you could call
48:16
the mmt regime right
48:20
well what what what what is it now the
48:22
fed can buy any asset
48:24
at any maturity it can flatten the
48:26
entire year curve down it can also go
48:29
after high risk credit it can do
48:30
anything it wants and the federal
48:32
government can basically cut taxes or
48:36
expand benefits any way it wants to and
48:38
the fed will just monetize right
48:40
monetize the difference right yeah so
48:43
sorry interrupt but this is such an
48:44
important um question that so many of
48:47
the viewers have been asking themselves
48:48
of late which is um
48:51
are we going to see in this fourth
48:53
turning kind of will reality re-express
48:55
itself and it certainly may amongst
48:58
things like you know physical resource
48:59
limitations and stuff like that because
49:01
you can’t necessarily print those up
49:03
overnight
49:04
um
49:05
but well sort of economically here will
49:07
will reality re-express itself and all
49:10
those old fundamentals of investing and
49:12
whatnot begin to matter again
49:14
or have we crossed a rubicon where the
49:18
fed is just going to be intervening in
49:19
any and all cases going forward and it’s
49:21
not we’re not going to return to that
49:23
because they require very different
49:25
investing strategies we hope you’ve been
49:27
enjoying this discussion with researcher
49:29
neil howe
49:30
the interview continues in part two
49:32
where neil details the economic and
49:34
market dynamics that he foresees will
49:36
play out during this current fourth
49:38
turning to watch part two just click on
49:41
the link provided in the description of
49:43
this video below
49:44
or go to youtube.com
49:47
wealthyon but before you go please don’t
49:49
forget to support this channel by
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okay i’ll see you over at part two of
50:27
our interview with neil howe

‘OK, boomer’ : What’s behind millennials’ growing resentment for their predecessors?

The downturn of the pandemic economy has hit many groups hard. But for many millennials — those born between 1981 and 1996 — and Generation Z, who follow them, that pain — plus a number of other factors — are creating questions about who is responsible. Over the next few nights, economics correspondent Paul Solman is going to examine this. He begins tonight from the perspective of some millennials.

Mr. Jones and Me: Younger Baby Boomers Swing Left

Were you more into punk than the Beatles? Were you less likely to protest the war than streak? You might be a Generation Joneser.

I think it was the 50th anniversary of Woodstock last summer that finally pushed me over the edge.

All summer long we’d been reliving the ’60s. Again. There were the boomers, reminiscing about Howdy Doody, Vietnam, the Summer of Love.

Watching all of this, I thought, well, damn. I don’t have anything in common with these people at all. Which is awkward, because I too am a baby boomer.

Or so I thought. Because then a friend of mine — born, like me, in 1958 — told me that we’re not boomers. We’re Generation Jones.

It was a term I’d never heard before, although a quick internet search revealed that yes, Generation Jones is an actual thing. It refers to the second half of the baby boom, to a group of people born roughly from 1954 to 1965.

We might be grouped with the baby boomers, but our formative experiences were profoundly different. If the zeitgeist of the boomers was optimism and revolution, the vibe of Gen Jones was cynicism and disappointment. Our formative years came in the wake of the 1973 oil shock, Watergate, the malaise of the Carter years and the Reagan recession of 1982. Above all, we resented the older boomers themselves — who we were convinced had things so much easier, and in whose shadow we’d been forced to spend our entire lives.

The fact that most people have never even heard of Generation Jones is the most Generation Jones thing about Generation Jones.

But if you identify more with punk, funk or disco than, say, Elvis, Buddy Holly or the Beatles, you’re a Joneser.

Is “Leave It to Beaver” kind of a hazy memory, while “The Brady Bunch” is crystal clear? You’re a Joneser.

Were you too young for the draft (which ended in 1973) but too old to have to register for it (starting in 1979)? Was there a time when you cared more about CB radio than Twitter? Did you wear Earth Shoes? Were you less likely to protest the war than to streak? Hello, Mr. Jones.

Older boomers may have wanted to change the world,” Richard Pérez-Peña wrote in these pages in 2014; “most of my peers just wanted to change the channel.”

The term was coined in 1999 by Jonathan Pontell, a cultural critic, who likes the double meaning of “Jones”: not only the anonymity of it, but also the sense of yearning. And in an interview last week, Mr. Pontell told me he thinks that Generation Jones may play a crucial role in the 2020 election.

Unlike older boomers, members of this generation are reliably conservative, perhaps because the traumas of the 1970s led us to distrust government. But Mr. Pontell thinks that Jonesers are now tipping to the left, for two reasons. First, Mr. Trump’s fumbling response to the Covid-19 crisis has hurt him with Jonesers, who are part of the demographic most at risk from the disease. And then there is Mr. Trump’s cruel mocking of Joe Biden’s senior moments. “There are lots of seniors out there that also have senior moments,” Mr. Pontell says. “They don’t really like the president mocking those one bit.”

Donald Trump (who is, it should be noted, an older boomer) has been a fraud on so many levels, but if there’s anything authentic about him, it’s his air of grievance. It may have been this, Mr. Pontell says, that made Jonesers vote for him in 2016. Hillary Clinton, to them, was the epitome of older baby boomer entitlement, and if Mr. Trump stood for anything, it was for the very things Gen Jones most identifies with: jealousy, resentment, self-pity.

There’s a word in Ireland, “begrudgery.” Padraig O’Morain, writing in The Irish Times, says: “Behind a lot of this begrudgery lies the unexamined and unspoken assumption that there is only so much happiness to go around. And guess what? The others have too much and I have too little.”

I turned to the feminist author Susan Faludi — a fellow Generation Joneser, born in 1959 — for more insight. “I recognize the yearning/resenting description of that cohort,” she told me. “Personally, I’ve always been in the yearning category — a modern-day Miniver Cheevy, ‘born too late’ to be in the thick of the ’60s social justice movements, which I shamelessly romanticized. As a girl, I had, God help me, a suede fringe vest and a hippie doll that came with a sign that said ‘You Turn Me On!’”

But many Jonesers feel bitterness about the 1960s, Ms. Faludi said, not nostalgia: “Researching my book ‘Stiffed,’ I met many angry baby boomer men — laid-off workers, evangelicals, militiamen — who felt they were slipping down the status ladder and blamed civil rights, antiwar, feminist and L.G.B.T. activism for their misery.”

Jonesers expected that as adults, we’d inherit the same wide-open sense of opportunity as our older brothers and sisters. But when those opportunities dried up, we became begrudgers instead — distrusting of government, nervous about change and fearful that creating opportunities for others would mean a diminishment of our own.

And so instead of changing the world, we’ve helped to create this endless mess — a result of the choices we’ve made, and in the voting booth not least.

Damn. The more I think about it, the more I think I don’t relate to Generation Jones either.

But maybe not relating is what Generation Jonesers do best.

“In a way,” Ms. Faludi asked me, “aren’t we all Generation Jonesers now, all still living in the unresolved rain shadow of the ’60s, still fighting the same issues, still shouting the same chants (‘What do we want?…’)?”

Maybe. But I’m hoping that this tumultuous, traumatic spring is finally the time Generation Jones — and the rest of the country, too — embraces the idea of transformational change. It’s been 50 years now. Couldn’t 2020, at long last, be the year we end the 1970s?

We’ll soon find out. Something’s happening here, and you don’t know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?

 

Life Of Brian- 1979 Debate (3/4)

The full debate from “Friday Night, Saturday Morning”, 9th November 1979. On the edition of 9 November 1979, hosted by Tim Rice, a discussion was held about the then-new film Monty Python’s Life of Brian, which been banned by many local councils and caused protests throughout the world with accusations that it was blasphemous. To argue in favour of this accusation were broadcaster and noted Christian Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood (the then Bishop of Southwark). In its defence were two members of the Monty Python team, John Cleese and Michael Palin.

Breaking Down the ‘Boomer’ Mentality

Students debate generational stereotypes and whether boomers really are OK.

Editor’s note: This Future View is about the baby boomers—who they are, and what stereotypes about them capture and leave out. Next week we’ll ask, “The 2010s are almost over. What defined the decade for you? For society as a whole?” Students should click here to submit opinions of fewer than 250 words before Jan. 7. The best responses will be published that night.

‘Sacrifice’ Isn’t in the Boomer Vocabulary

“Boomer” best describes not a particular generational cohort, but people who feel they deserve the entitlements promised to them decades ago, regardless of the consequences for younger generations. And the consequences of Social Security’s ever-expanding budget will be dire—its costs are expected to exceed its income in 2020, forcing it to draw from its trust fund. By 2035, both Social Security and Medicare are predicted to exhaust their trust funds entirely.

Anyone who understands basic accounting can see that the projected explosion in federal expenditure and debt these entitlements are driving will cripple my generation’s ability to deal with the myriad challenges before us. We need those funds to

  • combat a rising China,
  • climate change and
  • the unforeseen consequences of nuclear waste, just to name a few.

The boomer mentality is understandable. Many people have planned their lives around these entitlements. However, their inability to sacrifice for the good of posterity is shameful.

When the Gauls sacked Rome, the old men who could no longer bear arms stayed to defend the city itself while the Senate and younger men withdrew to a more fortified position in the citadel with their families. They sacrificed themselves for their descendants and found it an honor. I don’t think many boomers would do the same.

— Benjamin Koby, Cambridge University, physics

Respect Your Elders

Clearly, “OK boomer” is an attempt to dismiss the knowledge and opinions of older Americans, based on the assumption that their wisdom isn’t relevant to today’s world. While our country has changed significantly since the birth of the first baby boomers in 1946, it’s incredibly foolish to suggest the lessons they’ve learned and values they’ve accrued are outdated.

Of course, it’s natural for young people to roll their eyes at their elders’ advice—“You just wouldn’t get it, Mom!” And in a way, they’re right. Boomers didn’t grow up worrying about school shootings or cyber bullying. Young people today live very different lives than the young people of the ’50s.

But to suggest that the knowledge boomers have accrued over their many years has no value is shameful and laughable. We have a lot to learn from them, because they’ve seen a heck of a lot more than we have. Not to mention, someday we’ll be the “old generation.” And I can’t imagine the 20-somethings of today will like being told that their opinions are outdated by the 20-somethings of tomorrow.

— Joey Reda, Boston College, finance

The Truth Behind the Joke

To my knowledge, the joke “OK boomer” began as a response to older relatives or co-workers who refuse to acknowledge problems staring them in the face.

  • Social Security is fine the way it is, despite the fact that I will never see a penny of it? OK boomer.
  • I should get a summer job to pay off my student loans? OK boomer. The term is a condescending retort to a group that frequently misrepresents or ignores concerns my generation raises.

This, coupled with the feeling that many problems were created by boomers—climate change, high housing costs, the massive federal deficit—makes the term a succinct criticism that rings true for many.

Of course, not all baby boomers are racist “back in my day” climate-change deniers. My parents and teachers are boomers, and they are thoughtful, intelligent people. However the boomer stereotype taps into a real frustration many young Americans feel. I know that this discontent can be interpreted as evidence of our penchant for self-pity, but so long as baby boomers ignore the issues of the present, you can bet you’ll hear a lot of “OK boomer.”

Generational Power Transfers During Political Crisis (Grant Williams, Neil Howe, Harald Malmgren)

Grant Williams and Neil Howe travel to the nation’s capital to continue their discussion about how previous “Fourth Turnings” have impacted the United States. They weave their way through the National Mall, paying homage to the WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam Veterans memorials and the generations they represent. They then meet with economist and former presidential advisor Dr. Harald Malmgren to get a look inside generational transfers of power and politics during times of upheaval. Filmed on April 4, 2019 in Washington, D.C.

‘OK Boomer’ Marks the End of Friendly Generational Relations

Now it’s war: Gen Z has finally snapped over climate change and financial inequality.

In a viral audio clip on TikTok, a white-haired man in a baseball cap and polo shirt declares, “The millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome, they don’t ever want to grow up.”

Thousands of teens have responded through remixed reaction videos and art projects with a simple phrase: “ok boomer.”

“Ok boomer” has become Generation Z’s endlessly repeated retort to the problem of older people who just don’t get it, a rallying cry for millions of fed up kids. Teenagers use it to reply to cringey YouTube videos, Donald Trump tweets, and basically any person over 30 who says something condescending about young people — and the issues that matter to them.

Teenagers have scrawled the message in their notebooks and carved it into at least one pumpkin. For senior picture day at one Virginia high school, a group of nine students used duct tape to plaster “ok boomer” across their chests.

The meme-to-merch cycle is nothing new, but unlike most novelty products, “ok boomer” merch is selling. Shannon O’Connor, 19, designed a T-shirt and hoodie with the phrase “ok boomer” written in the “thank you” style of a plastic shopping bag. She uploaded it to Bonfire, a site for selling custom apparel, with the tagline “Ok boomer have a terrible day.” After promoting the shirt on TikTok, she received more than $10,000 in orders.

The older generations grew up with a certain mind-set, and we have a different perspective,” Ms. O’Connor said. “A lot of them don’t believe in climate change or don’t believe people can get jobs with dyed hair, and a lot of them are stubborn in that view. Teenagers just respond, ‘Ok, boomer.’ It’s like, we’ll prove you wrong, we’re still going to be successful because the world is changing.”

Ms. O’Connor is far from the only one cashing in. Hundreds of “ok boomer” products are for sale through on-demand shopping sites like Redbubble and Spreadshirt, where many young people are selling “ok boomer” phone cases, bedsheets, stickers, pins and more.

Nina Kasman, an 18-year-old college student selling “ok boomer” stickers, socks, shirts, leggings, posters, water bottles, notebooks and greeting cards, said that while older generations have always looked down on younger kids or talked about things “back in their day,” she and other teens believe older people are actively hurting young people. “Everybody in Gen Z is affected by the choices of the boomers, that they made and are still making,” she said. “Those choices are hurting us and our future. Everyone in my generation can relate to that experience and we’re all really frustrated by it.”

Gen Z is going to be the first generation to have a lower quality of life than the generation before them,” said Joshua Citarella, 32, a researcher who studies online communities. Teenagers today find themselves, he said, with “three major crises all coming to a head at the Gen Z moment.”

Essentials are more expensive than ever before, we pay 50 percent of our income to rent, no one has health insurance,” said Mr. Citarella. “Previous generations have left Generation Z with the short end of the stick. You see this on both the left, right, up down and sideways.” Mr. Citarella added: “The merch is proof of how much the sentiment resonates with people.”

Rising inequality, unaffordable college tuition, political polarization exacerbated by the internet, and the climate crisis all fuel anti-boomer sentiment.

And so Ms. Kasman and other teenagers selling merch say that monetizing the boomer backlash is their own little form of protest against a system they feel is rigged. “The reason we make the ‘ok boomer’ merch is because there’s not a lot that I can personally do to reduce the price of college, for example, which was much cheaper for older generations who then made it more expensive,” Ms. Kasman said. “There’s not much I can personally do to restore the environment, which was harmed due to corporate greed of older generations. There’s not much I can personally do to undo political corruption, or fix Congress so it’s not mostly old white men boomers who don’t represent the majority of generations.”

Ms. Kasman said she plans to use proceeds to pay for college. So do others.

“I’ll definitely use the money for my student loans, paying my rent. Stuff that will help me survive,” said Everett Solares, 19, who is selling a slew of rainbow “ok boomer” products. “I hadn’t seen any gay stuff for ‘ok boomer,’ so I just chose every product that I could find in case anyone wanted it,” she said.

Gavin Deschutter, 17, reimagines famous logos for companies like FedEx, Budweiser, Google, and KFC with the catch phrase, and has been selling t shirts and phone cases emblazoned with the message. He hasn’t made very much — “I sold a hoodie yesterday for $36,” he said — but his designs have been shared across meme pages on Instagram.

Every movement needs an anthem, and the undisputed boomer backlash hymn is a song written and produced by Jonathan Williams, a 20-year-old college student. Titled, inevitably, “ok boomer,” the song opens with: “It’s funny you think I respect your opinion, when your hairline looks that disrespectful.”

The chorus consists of Mr. Williams screaming “ok boomer” repeatedly into the mic. Peter Kuli, a 19-year-old college student, created a remix of the song, which has seen 4,000 TikToks made from the track. The two planned to split the revenue earned through streams of the song on Spotify.

“The song is aggressive and ridiculous, but I think it says a lot about Gen Z culture,” said Mr. Kuli. “I think because of the internet, people are finally feeling like they have a voice and an outlet to critique the generations who got us into this position.”

“Millennials and Gen Xers are on our side, but I think Gen Z is finally putting their feet in the ground and saying enough is enough,” he said.

Teens say “ok boomer” is the perfect response because it’s blasé but cutting. It’s the digital equivalent of an eye roll. And because boomers so frequently refer to younger generations as “snowflakes,” a few teenagers said, it’s particularly hilarious to watch them freak out about the phrase.

“If they do take it personally, it just further proves that they take everything we do as offensive. It’s just funnier,” said Saptarshi Biswas, 17.

“Instead of taking offense to them, you’re just like, ha-ha,” said Julitza Mitchell, 18.

In the end, boomer is just a state of mind. Mr. Williams said anyone can be a boomer — with the right attitude. “You

  • don’t like change, you
  • don’t understand new things especially related to technology, you
  • don’t understand equality,” he said.

“Being a boomer is just having that attitude, it can apply to whoever is bitter toward change.”

“We’re not taking a jab at boomers as a whole — we’re not going for their lives,” said Christopher Mezher, 18. “If it’s a jab at anyone it’s outdated political figures who try to run our lives.”

“You can keep talking,” Ms. Kasman said, as if to a boomer, “but we’re going to change the future.”