The Stinky Cheese Man: A Modern Parable

A few years ago the motivational book Who Moved My Cheese was required reading for management mavens. You couldn't swing a dead rat without hitting someone who'd read it. It was the parable of how people relate to change. The parable featured two mice looking for cheese in a maze. It occurs to me that perhaps a new parable about rodents and cheese might be in order.

Imagine Iraq is a cheese. A nice, fresh, ripe, good-smelling cheese. One that would be appealing with a little wine or perhaps some fruit.

Now, put the cheese in the middle of a maze. Let's call the maze The White House.

Finally, put a giant rat into the maze - say, one named George. Afterwards, release dozens of smaller rats into the maze. We'll call these rats - oooo, say, congressional rats. Some are big and fat, others a little puny.

Let them nibble around the edges of the cheese for a few weeks. A bite here. A bite there. And, let the natural hierarchical order amongst rodents rule the day - the bigger the rat, the more room the other rats give him. When the cheese runs out, replace it with new bits of cheese. But always use cheese of the same age and ripeness. It's very important not to change the environment in any way.

Rats in a MazeAfter a few weeks, the cheese will begin to smell. It'll only be a slightly musty smell at first. Certainly nothing to put the rats off the cheese, just a marginally stronger aroma.

Notice how a few congressional rats begin to wander away from the cheese as it begins to smell. As they wander, they find other sources of better smelling food within the maze or hang out at the water bottle to keep as far away from the cheese as possible. Also notice how George always eats heartily, even when the cheese begins to smell and grow mold. George enjoys the cheese so much he invites his bigger rat friends over to share it. We'll call these rats Dick, Donald, and Condi. The one named Dick has little teensie testicles. The one named Donald wears very thick glasses. And the one named Condi has really huge testicles.

Because the big rats consume most of the cheese, the smaller rats become hungrier and go in search of more wholesome and less stinky, moldy food. After all, you can't feed the same number of rats on a finite amount of cheese. The maze just doesn't work that way. Although some are slow to learn that.

Meanwhile, the cheese continues to age. The slight aroma becomes a huge, putrid stink. Like the stink of many dead bodies. A stink so bad, it drives more of the congressional rats away. But, notice how George, Dick, Donald, and Condi continue to eat. They eat all the cheese the Congressional rats abandon. In fact, the more the cheese stinks the more they seem to enjoy it. They constantly claw at the edges of the maze to get more stinking cheese, but never once do they leave the safety of the maze in search of less stinky cheese.

One day the cheese smell becomes intolerable. The mold is several inches thick and the sides of the cheese bulge and weep with a thick, black fluid. It's truly disgusting. The few remaining congressional rats flee. It stinks so bad they vomit from it. Imagine it! Hundreds of rats bent over tiny toilets, holding each other's ears back and vomiting. However, there are still a few rats in the general vicinity of the cheese. They've turned their back on it and occasionally abandon it to go to the secret food stashes, but they continue to lurk nearby where the smell is still thick, but not so bad. George, Dick, Donald, and Condi continue to eat. The more it stinks, the more they like it. Their bellies grow fat from the fetid dairy products.

One day, as George, Dick, Donald, and Condi eat the obscenely stinking cheese, George chokes on a piece. He's not worried though. That also happens when he eats pretzels. But now, the stink is so thick that Dick begins having chest pains from it. Donald grabs Dick by the tail and drags him out of the maze to safety. It's a long drag and Donald is very old. Condi makes a note to get a younger, smarter rat than Donald.

Back at the cheese, the stink sticks to George and Condi like the stink from a skunk's ass. Condi wants to leave, but George holds fast.

"Condi, I can't admit that I've been eating this stinky cheese for so long. What kind of a foolish rat would the other rats think I am," George says.

A few of the nearby rats say, "Here, here George! This stink is really nauseating for us too, but someone has to stay there and guard that stinky cheese. If we don't, some bigger rat might creep in a steal it or blow it up. There are terror rats as you well know and we cannot let them cut the cheese."

Finally, the stink is so unbearable that Condi acts. "George, follow me. We simply must get away from this stinking cheese," she squeaks. "It will ruin my hair and curl my long pretty tail!"

"Naw, the cheese might stink, but it's my cheese and I just know it'll become less stinky some day," George bellows.

"Geroge, you're one crazy rat," says Condi.

But finally, the cheese begins to stink so badly that even George can't stand it anymore. It's so bad that when he goes home to his hole at the end of a long day of cheese eating and maze wandering, his mate Laura tosses him out of the shredded newspapers they use as a bed.

"Lordy George, you stink!" she exclaims. "It's high time you get away from that stinky cheese or there will be no more breeding for you!"

So George begins to run. He turns corner after corner, always convinced that freedom is just beyond the next one. He looks for help from the congressional rats, but most have taken up refuge in a small model of the cruise ship Titanic. George's old friend Dick still likes the smell, but needs a new pacemaker so he can't help George. Donald is just too old and senile to help. So, Condi sticks with George, but is always very careful to stay at least three steps behind him in case something happens while turning the blind corners of the maze.

George continues to run. First, he runs to the corner of the maze called Guantanamo, but some Supreme Court rats push him away. Then, he runs to the Geneva corner, thinking that if he treats some of the other rats a little better they might help him escape. The Geneva rats merely laugh. He tries burning a small flag in an attempt to distract the other rats so he can ask them to help him escape, but only a few of the rats with the lowest IQs agree to help.

To make George's plight worse, the cheese is now so stinky it envelopes the maze, the laboratory room, the building it's in, and the entire college campus that houses it. It's a powerful stink that threatens to flatten him. George runs until he can't run anymore. Finally, he turns and looks around the maze.

In one corner is a rare Korean Loony rat. The rat hurls pebbles at George. In the opposite corner there's another rat - this one an Islamic rat from Iran. He keeps turning off the oil that keeps the maze's exercise wheel lubricated. In still another corner, Israeli, Syrian, and Lebanese rats kill and eat each other. They are, after all, accomplished killer rats.

George is isolated. All his rat friends abandon him. The cheese continues to glow with a mighty radioactive stink. The situation in the maze spins out of control until George can stand it no longer.

He turns slowly away from the cheese and heads for the exit. As he nears it, George trots faster and by the end of the experiment he's running at full, cheese-powered speed for the exit. He doesn't know where he'll go, but he inexplicably remains confident of his ability to rule the maze.

As George relishes the clean air at the exit, he becomes euphoric. In fact, so euphoric that he stops and looks back at the maze.

Suddenly he's seized by the urge to yell something in defiance. And this is what he yells...


The End.

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Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Friday, July 14, 2006

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