I have enjoyed the Dilbert cartoons over the years. The cartoons have appealed to all of us who have been in the bowels of large companies/organizations, whether public or private, nonprofit or – allegedly – for profit. They are quirky, absurdist, and strangely appealing to the Everyman that lives with arbitrary rules, unfair employment practices, and seeing the underpinnings of the Peter Principle put into action.
Lately, however, Mr. Adams has wandered into scary territory – his podcast excusing and attempting to brush over Biden and his administration’s cluelessly incompetent yet airily self-congratulatory actions in the Afghanistan debacle is disturbing. Rather like seeing that kindly old uncle morph into super-villain right before your eyes.
It’s all the general’s fault? No. Like it or not, a leader needs to take the responsibility for failure. It does not have to be the end of a career – look at the Bay of Pigs disaster – JFK owned it, and didn’t spread the blame around.
Now, privately, he may have unleashed some whoop-a$$, but publicly, he took responsibility for the decision.
Not only is Biden incapable of accepting that the withdrawal failed, he is mentally incapable of handling the complexities of the overall process, and the analysis of where it all broke down.
Incompetent leadership doesn’t happen spontaneously. It occurs for several reasons:
- Those in charge may not recognize who is a good leader – if all a person has to do is tick off boxes to be sent to the next level, that will weed out many competent people who are not of the ‘correct’ demographic or linked to favored others.
- Short-term results will often act against the overall good of the organization, but are the metrics upon which promotion is built. This breeds ethical shortcuts, accounting tricks, bluster and B$, and favors the “Bungee Boss”
- These types of organizations provide a long-term job only for the most passive, deceitful, lazy, and demoralized people. Anyone with spunk, initiative, and high moral standards leaves ASAP. Such people will essentially sell their soul for the promise of a continued paycheck. I don’t scorn them – I deeply pity them. Many of them have, through their own lack of character, spent themselves into HAVING to accept the deeply dysfunctional and corrupt environment as a norm. This leads to psychic distortions that cannot fathom leaving the quasi-safe environment for another job.
This leads me to Dilbert. I used to enjoy the comic. I had endured a few workplaces like that (for far longer than I wanted to), and the reality that I lived was reflected in the daily Dilbert. Misery loves company.
Why is Adams still drawing and writing Dilbert? He has been out of that environment for many years. What does it do to your soul to relive that experience, over and over again for all these years?
He could take chances – he could create another comic, this one dealing with the life of an independent business man, who has to deal with making payroll for himself and those who work for him, handling crazy government regulations and paperwork, spending time with the family who ask about “your little business” and ask for freebies, and other aspects of entrepreneurial life. I would think such a comic would appeal to his base, who may yearn for such an alternative to their own life. But, more importantly, it would give Adams a way to step away from his current focus on the most soul-deadening period in his own life.
His mindset is still that of a guy without options; someone who is a hopeless tool of others. He identifies with Biden, who is well and truly stuck. Not the guy I’d take political advice from. When he talked about the generals, whose only response to unrealistic demands to Get the Military OUT! was to ‘slow-walk’ their actions, it hit me:
That’s the typical Dilbert response.
Now, for a cartoon the was oddly prescient.