This morning I went to my office kitchen to make my breakfast. I saw a Dilbert calendar pinned on our notice board and I was forced — against my will — to think about Dilbert.
Our office has a Dilbert calendar now. It’s one of those ‘daily’ calendars. A comic for every day. First person in gets to tear off yesterday’s comic and toss it in the trash where it belongs because Dilbert is garbage and holy Christ, how did I end up working in an office that has a Dilbert calendar in the kitchen.
Dilbert is a disease.
It’s become fashionable in my cosy liberal echo chamber to trash Dilbert creator Scott Adams and — by association — his comic strip. I don’t really believe in that. I still cling to that old-fashioned idea that we can separate art from the terrible people who create it. I’m not a big fan of trashing someone’s entire body of work because they made a couple of bad tweets.
Dilbert isn’t always terrible, but it’s usually terrible. This is just my opinion. I am not a Dilbert-phobe, some of my best friends like Dilbert, but I find the comics bland, the kind of thing you might smirk at. Hardly a comic you’d share on Twitter. “Holy shit, did you see the new Dilbert? It’s hilarious.” I can’t imagine myself saying that. I can’t imagine anyone saying that.
When I try to imagine the person who might say ‘omgdidyouseethenewdilbert’ I’m fairly sure those are the words of someone who truly, fundamentally hates their job. This is the person who went to a store, bought a Dilbert calendar, stuck it to the notice board in the office kitchen, dusted their hands and said, “It’s about time someone brought some humour to this office.”
And this is the most terrifying part: this happened in the place where I work.
I can’t believe I work in a Dilbert office.
I had dreams once, I had high hopes. How did I end up in a place where Dilbert is acceptable?
“Hard at work or hardly working,” he laughs. He slaps someone’s back, maybe even their butt. This is a joke that could happen at a moment's notice in a Dilbert office.
“Doing pretty good… for a Monday.”
“Thank God it’s Friday, right?”
One day a new starter will arrive in the office, he will be introduced to someone and that person will say, “we’re all mad here!”
That’s how I’ll find out who left the Dilbert calendar in the office kitchen. That person will become my prime suspect.
Dilbert is just the beginning. Soon conversations like this will be happening throughout my office.
I can’t decide if Dilbert is a disease, or just a symptom.
Either way, if I’m CEO of a company and I see a Dilbert calendar in the office kitchen, I’m taking a long hard look at my own performance. I’m asking, “what have I done wrong here? How did it come to this? How did I let this happen?”
I’m walking into the bathroom, splashing water on my face, eyes red round the rim. Staring deep at myself in the mirror. I’m doing some real soul-searching.
“How did this place become a Dilbert office under my leadership?”
Dilbert exists at this weird juncture in space-time. It’s a solution to a problem created by Dilbert. We have Dilbert because office life is banal, “because we might as well laugh or we’ll cry, right?”
But Dilbert is in itself a signifier that you work in an office that needs Dilbert. It is the solution to its own problem: a crudely drawn Ouroboros with glasses and a tie that just won’t fucking bend straight.
My head hurts just thinking about it.