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Escaping the Jungle

The author and Canela a year and a half ago
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by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

Canela followed Veronica home one day from the Jardin. At that time, seven years ago, home was with her friend Lori in Las Alemedas, a long way from el Centro.

Lori kept Canela when Vero moved out and two years ago when Lori moved back to Chile, Vero took her in.

(Lori intended on taking Canela to Chile, thought she had all in order, but discovered at the last minute that there is a maximum layover time allowed when you are traveling with pets.)

Canela is a great dog She is extremely affectionate when any one of us, the human members of her often far-flung pack, comes home. I bring her bones and take her for walks, off the leash, when I visit.

Our route, there in Colonia Allende, passes through the very wide intersection where Prolongacin 5 de Mayo becomes Caracol. (Depending on how you count, 4, 5 or 6 streets meet there.) From there we usually turn down onto a path behind some buildings, into a green space alongside a ravine. The path comes out a short while later into a little park, not much more than a concrete playing field.

We've happily walked through that intersection dozens of times. Recently though, three times we've come upon a largish, spotted dog who has appointed himself guardian of that space and has the muscle and teeth to prove it.

I've waved him off twice, keeping him stationary on the other side of the intersection, brandishing the thick cane, with which I defended Canela from a different, very aggressive dog, giving that cur a brisk chop when it lunged in at her.

The third time this spotted dog was already on the near side of the road. But involved as he was with some people picnicing, he didn't notice us until some time after we had passed. When he did come curiously in our direction the picnicers called him back. I didn't take advantage of that opportunity to have the two dogs get to know each other calmly and with his masters present. Male and female, everything would have been fine, and yesterday's crisis would have been avoided.

Yesterday as we approached the intersection, on the other side a different dog started barking at her. The spotted dog raced over to the barker from somewhere, answering the alarm of his pack. Without stopping, without breaking stride he spied Canela and changed course, coming right at her.

I watched him come, thinking that she was where I last saw her, right behind me. But she she was off and running back the way we came. Still, he passed so close and fast beside me that he whelped when he made contact with the cane that I extended across his path. I didn't hit him; he hit it.

I watched as he caught up with Canela, who through the whole incident didn't stop running. Having made his point, defended his pack, at some distance he stopped and started back, receiving a few words of mild reproach from me as he jauntily trotted passed, again quite close.

Canela, who had also made her point, entirely yielding the field, stopped and waited for me. I looked her over and found a couple of bite marks, places, here and there, where a tooth came close to puncturing her skin. There was no blood, just a few pink points on her backside. We took a different route to the park.

I felt guilty for not having better defended Canela. There, with my blood up, I wished I had given the spotted dog a good whack when he ran past me. But on further, calmer consideration, as things turned out, it would have been a shame to really hurt him.

In Vermont it was impressed upon me that you do not want to surprise a bear at close quarters. You want to make some noise while they are still a good ways off. Becoming aware of you close up they do not stop and think. They respond to you as a threat... and their claws are much longer than yours.

Yesterday's dog crisis was also quick and instinctual. When the spotted dog had time to consider things in our previous encounters he kept cool. But with another member of his pack raising the alarm there was no time to think. He did what dogs do, what packs of dogs do; he attacked.

That our close cousins, the chimpanzees, act as violently as they do does not bode well for the utopians among us humans, those of us who imagine lions lying down with lambs.

In my much less idealized framing of reality, chimps will be chimps, dogs will be dogs and eople will be people.

Yes, if we can be made to stop and think, we can keep the violence down to a minimum. That's what culture does, or should do. Those of us who, poorly enculturated, have difficulty stopping and thinking need the threat of the law to encourage them to keep cool.

Add to this tribalism. Chimps have their tribe and violently attack their neighbors, killing and cannibalizing them. Packs of wild dogs have killed people here in San Miguel.


The author's cane posed in a maguey
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Empires (e.g., Soviet, Austro-Hungarian) suppress tribal wars. Pluralistic societies, at their best, repress tribal tensions.

Smart people assert that the United State is the least racist of any pluralistic society, less than Japan, Korea, Europe... They say that it will be a long time before a black man becomes the prime minister of France. They say that in China, if you are not Han, you can just forget about it.

Yes, the founding ideals of the US need further advancement. Things need to get better, a lot better. But in our rush to advance, it should be kept in mind that things have been and could be again and are yet in most parts of the world a lot worse.

The West, with our Enlightenment ideals of tolerance and open discussion is, so far anyway, the best system we have been able to come up with. It is important to keep in mind that, paradoxically, it is only because of the prosperity and freedom of Western civilization that we are able to have a discussion about ending Western civilization.

Let's keep talking together, keep thinking beyond our team's ideology. Let's not succumb to the divisiveness and hate of identity politics. Let's keep imagining a greater whole. Otherwise, we go back to the jungle with the chimps or pack up again like dogs.

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Dr David and his merry band believe that the new expanded Lokkal will change the world, city by city.

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