The Adams Principle (Current Affairs)
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How did cartoonist Scott Adams go from Dilbert to MAGA and what does the Cold War have to do with it?
By Aisling McCrea
When I was maybe nine or ten years old, I was driven by boredom to look through my dad’s book collection. (I forget the exact year, but it was definitely before we had broadband, because the years after broadband were spent diving down rabbit holes of old TV shows and video game reviews.) Among the spy novels and Reader’s Digests, I managed to find a book that actually appealed to children, picked it up, and squirreled it away for later reading. It was appealing to kids because it had a cartoon dog on the cover.
As you might have guessed from glancing at the illustrations, the book I’d chosen was not Clifford the Big Red Dog, but The Dilbert Principle, a satirical book about office life for adults by popular cartoonist, Scott Adams, based off his daily syndicated strip simply named Dilbert. Despite the book’s subject matter being seemingly irrelevant to my life, and its constant references to incomprehensible topics like Six Sigma, project management, and beta testing, I ended up reading and enjoying the whole book; not only that, but once I finished, I actually bought more Adams books with my own pocket money, to the bafflement of the staff at my local bookstore. Until recently, I actually looked back on this part of my life with shame and confusion—great, yet another part of my childhood to mark me out as abnormal—but in the last couple of years, thanks to the internet, I’ve discovered that I actually wasn’t alone. Perhaps half a dozen of my friends and coworkers that I’ve met through social media have confessed to also being “Dilbert kids”. Sadly, just as I’ve managed to get away from the shame of loving Dilbert for one reason, I’ve been forced to develop a new reason to be ashamed of loving Dilbert—namely, the increasingly strange behaviour and beliefs of Adams himself. But we will come to that later.
For the uninitiated—those strange folks who spent their childhoods riding their bikes and playing with other children—the premise of Dilbert is very simple. Dilbert is an engineer who works for a generic corporate behemoth, alongside his coworkers Wally (lazy), Asok (naive) and Alice (woman), all under the auspices of an imbecilic manager known only as the Pointy-haired Boss. Any given strip typically involves Dilbert being tyrannized and frustrated by corporate culture, occasionally venting with his anthropomorphized pet/roommate, Dogbert, or sparring with the evil Catbert from human resources. (In case you were uncertain, Dogbert is a dog. I will allow you to draw your own conclusions about what Catbert is.) Dilbert has been a stalwart (stalbert?) of print media for going on 30 years, and is syndicated worldwide in about 2,000 newspapers.
It’s easy to see why Dilbert is popular. Although the protagonist is an engineer, the setting is vague enough to act as a stand-in for practically all workplaces, and despite the occasional references to tech-specific gripes, the themes of unjust hierarchy, frustrating mundanity, and the general fact that work sucks is relatable to pretty much anyone, even schoolchildren, as it turns out. (Whom amongst us has never had a mean, pompous or incompetent Pointy-haired Teacher?) Also, a three-panel comic requires a certain kind of discipline, and despite the inevitable hit-or-miss situation you get when you churn out content on a daily basis—if you want an example, check my tweets—throughout the classic era of the strips there’s undoubtedly a tight turnaround of setup, punchline, post-punchline that usually feels good and right.
When thinking about stuff, the stuff of life, there are many philosophies. ‘Why so many philosophies?’, one may ask themselves with one hundred and fourteen other thoughts banging through your head at the same time. For some it is simple, ‘Who needs a philosophy?’ Others may say, ‘Life is just so busy!’ Then again it maybe simple and complex at the same time such as, ‘What works for one person does not work for the next!’
If you cannot dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit WC FieldsWarning DO NOT CLICK HERE!
October 9, 2020 at 6:50 PM #366610Ohio BarbarianModerator
- Total Posts: 21,777
And turned into an entitled, arrogant asshole. Society let him down. Maybe if his wealth had been sufficiently taxed, he wouldn’t be quite as insufferable as he now is.
It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.--Eugene Debs
You can jail a revolutionary, but you can't jail the revolution.--Fred Hampton
October 9, 2020 at 7:45 PM #366626
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