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"OH WATERS, TEEM WITH MEDICINE TO KEEP MY BODY SAFE FROM HARM, SO THAT I MAY LONG SEE THE SUN." - Rig Veda
É extraordinário reparar quão certas estão as previsões tecnológicas e quão erradas as previsões das mudanças sociais.
A good example of what happens to dogs when people are taken out of the picture lies in Russia’s capital city. Feral dogs have been running around Moscow for at least 150 years. These aren't just lost pets that band together – these dogs been on their own for awhile, and indeed, any poor, abandoned domesticated canine will meet an unfortunate fate at the hands of these territorial streetwalkers. Moscow's dogs have lost traits like spotted coloration, wagging tails and friendliness that distinguish domesticated dogs from wolves – but they haven’t become them. The struggle to survive is tough for a stray, and only an estimated 3% ever breed. This strong selective pressure has led them to evolve into four distinct behavioral types, according to biologist Andrei Poyarkov who has studied the dogs for the past 30 years. There are guard dogs, who follow around security personnel, treating them as the alpha leaders of their packs. Others, called scavengers, have evolved completely different behaviors, preferring to roam the city for garbage instead of interacting with people. The most wolf-like dogs are referred to as wild dogs, and they hunt whatever they can find including cats and mice.
But the last group of Moscow's dogs is by far the most amazing. They are the beggars, for obvious reasons. In these packs, the alpha isn't the best hunter or strongest, it's the smartest. The most impressive beggars, however, get their own title: 'metro dogs'. They rely on scraps of food from the daily commuters who travel the public transportation system. To do so, the dogs have learned to navigate the subway. They know stops by name, and integrate a number of specific stations into their territories.
This dramatic shift from the survival of the fittest to the survival of the smartest has changed how Moscow's dogs interact with humans and with each other. Beggars are rarely hit by cars, as they have learned to cross the streets when people do. They've even been seen waiting for a green light when no pedestrians are crossing, suggesting that they have actually learned to recognize the green walking man image of the crosswalk signal. Also, there are fewer "pack wars" that once were commonplace between Moscow's stray canines, some of which used to last for months. However, they remain vigilant against the wild dogs and wolves that live on the outskirts of the city – rarely, if ever, are they permitted into Moscow. When politicians thought to remove the dogs, their use as a buffer against these animals was cited as a strong reason not to disturb them.
Moscow's exemplary dogs show how different traits help dogs adapt to different ecological niches – whether it be brute strength for hunting in the truly feral wild dogs or intelligence in the almost-domesticated beggars. Some wonder if the strong selection for intellect will make Moscow’s metro dogs into another species all together, if left to their own devices.
North Korea's ideology is not merely a nationalist-tinged communism of the old Yugoslav variety. It is a race-based worldview utterly at odds with the teachings of Marx and Lenin. And yet, the outside world continues in the illusion that North Korea is a hard-line Stalinist state. True, the nation's first leader, Kim Il Sung, was installed by Soviet occupiers after World War II. It is also true that the personality cult of Kim Il Sung and his son and successor Kim Jong Il bears superficial resemblance to the cults of Stalin and Mao. Yet look closer, and it's clear just how different North Korean ideology is. Not for nothing was the country almost as isolated during Soviet times as it is now in the post-communist world.
North Korea's race-centric ideology was inspired by that of the fascist Japanese who ruled the peninsula from 1910 until the end of World War II. Having been taught by their colonizers to regard themselves as part of a superior Yamato race, the North Koreans in 1945 simply carried on the same mythmaking in a Koreanized form. This can be summarized in a single sentence: The Korean people are too pure-blooded, and so too virtuous, to survive in this evil world without a great parental leader. This paranoid nationalism might sound crude and puerile, but it is only in this ideological context that the country's distinguishing characteristics, which the outside world has long found so baffling, make perfect sense. Up close, North Korea is not Stalinist -- it's simply racist.