Drop that spoon, comrades!
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – I'VE BEEN THINKING A LOT ABOUT Viktor Yushchenko, who is now President of Ukraine. It's not a job that you or I would really want. The perks are probably terrible. Like, you get to stay in the best former Soviet Ramada Inn equivalent in Kiev, or have access to a 20-year-old, eight-cylinder automobile when there's enough fuel around to make it run.

But for some reason Yushchenko wanted the job and ran for it against the ruling party, which was backed by a guy in Russia who fashions himself the next Peter the Great or Ivan the Terrible or Vlad the Impaler or whatever dictator appeals to the imagination in that region, fueled as it is by vodka, xenophobia, and melancholy. His name is Putin, and he used to run the KGB, which is not that different from your human resources department or mine.

Yushchenko was doing pretty well in his campaign for President of the new Ukraine, which is different from the old Ukraine because they're all in favor of freedom over there now. They're very eager to become part of the European community and to put behind them the fact that in the last world war they were basically on the wrong side because they hated Stalin so much. And the Western media, and the world at large, are willing to give them that. It was a long time ago, and you can't be held to account forever for the misdeeds of a prior generation of senior management.

Anyhow, our man Yushchenko rallied all the cool people in Ukraine to his cause--young people, old people, musicians, artists, intelligentsia, students, professionals, the developing bourgeoisie of the nation--all looking hopefully to the future. They wore orange, and the world took note.

Then something very weird happened. The established leadership, determined to stay in power, had launched a number of murderous attacks on Yushchenko and his supporters--subtle stuff, like trying to force his car off the road on a dark night. So the people's candidate, thinking it might be a good idea to nip that sort of behavior in the bud, called a secret meeting with his opponents, including the Ukrainian Secret Police chief, who is a tool of Putin, and some other trolls of that order, and they all decided to have dinner. You can only imagine what kind of deplorable fare was on hand. Cream of mushroom soup straight out of the can is what I'm thinking.

And the thing we need to consider is that at this dinner our pal Viktor was sitting down with all the people who wanted him dead. Was he smart and strategic? Or incredibly naive? You be the judge.

Because, as you probably know, at this dinner Yushchenko is fed a bowl of something fatty and runny with lots of seasoning, presumably, and in that stew is a giant dose of dioxin, which, as any former resident of Love Canal will tell you, is really not good for the human body. And within a couple of hours the candidate, who heretofore has been a hale, good-looking fellow, is transformed into a hobbled, pockmarked monster only slightly less handsome than, say, Leonid Brezhnev or Aleksei Kosygin, if you remember them, so ugly that the only thing he's fit for is the leadership of an Eastern European country.

The surprising thing is that instead of dying immediately, the guy lives to run another day, and his deformed countenance is proof that he is too dangerous to the existing order for the people not to elect. And so he is elected.

After I realized that it was the business person in me who was interested in this bizarre tale, I pondered it for a while. Here, I think, are the lessons for us all.

•Don't be a moron. It's okay to be courageous in the face of your enemies, but credulity and trust are often repaid with a plateful of chemicals. Or more likely, in our environs, with a shiv between the ribs.

•Never underestimate the desire of the ruling cadre to stay in control. Power is nice to have. Losing it is very unpleasant, unless you get a mighty good book deal. There's little that people won't do to keep the thing that makes them feel strong and safe. For some, it's kids and family. For others, it's their job, a state-supplied vehicle, and a welcome mat at the corporate Kremlin.

•Don't assume that the adversary is human. History proves otherwise. When Marius took over Rome, he killed all of Sulla's friends. When Sulla came back, he killed everybody Marius liked, including his dry cleaner.

•Don't think that times have changed and people don't do crazy stuff to one another anymore. It's clear that they do, all over the world, so why not where you are too?

•Don't ask for a meeting with monsters. What are you? Stupid?

STANLEY BING's new book, Sun Tzu Was a Sissy: Conquer Your Enemies, Promote Your Friends, and Wage the REAL Art of War (HarperBusiness), is available at finer bookstores everywhere. He can be reached at stanleybing@aol.com.