Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture
Paradigms shift, twist and flex in this book which addresses gender roles, religion and culture as a whole.
First of all, I'm a huge anthropology nut; someday, when I grow up, I want to be one ~ with the proper papers (a Masters) and all. Second of all, I've written a business review of this book at The Marketing Whore, but I wanted to mention this book here for a few other reasons. Namely the matters of "Savage Men," "Witches" and "Messiahs."
In "Savage Men", Harris shows how women are culpable in creating powerful men which rule them.
"If I had knowledge only of the anatomy and cultural capacities of men and women, I would predict that women rather than men would be more likely to gain control over the technology of defense and aggression, and that if one sex were going to subordinate the other, it would be female over male. While I would be impressed with they physical dimorphism -- the greater height, weight, and strength of the males -- especially in relationship to hand-held weapons, I would be even more impressed by something which the females have and which the males cannot get -- namely, control over the birth, care, and feeding of babies. Women, in other words, control the nursery, and because they control the nursery, they can potentially modify any lifestyle that threatens them. it is within their power of selective neglect to produce a sex ration heavily in their favor of females over males. It also lies within woman's power to sabotage the development of "masculine" males by rewarding little boys for being passive rather than aggressive."
I can hear angry feminists growling already ~ I too bristled at this. But you know what... He has evidence to support this theory of female responsibility. Why do these Yanomamo women kill female babies and nurture males when the reverse would grant women the power? (Similarly, why don't women rise-up here in America? And his theory also points to why today, our rights to reproductive choice is so damn threatening.) Harris provides the details ~ you'll have to read the book to discover them all. But it sure is stuff to ponder.
In "Messiahs" we learn that the historical truth that Jesus life was part of Jewish military-messianic thought. Jesus, like many others (including John the Baptist) were military leaders, preaching revolution ~ and by the sword, not in a figurative spiritual way (that came later). Tough stuff for many, I'm sure. But read some other history books, and you'll not only see what Harris speaks of, but gain some incredible insights into warring bloodshed in the name of religion the going on right now.
When it comes to witches, I've long read & resonated with the theories in which women were slaughtered simply for having power. Often these women have been described as being healers, mid-wives, and even land owners. But in Harris' book, there is a larger governmental & religious conspiracy.
At a time when the Catholic church has many uprisings and threats, they seem to have planted the notion and fear of witches in order to justify their importance and to ~ are you ready for this? ~ distract the citizenry from the real matters at hand. By having individuals fear and accuse one another, they didn't band together and revolt. With the church and wealthy government officials appearing to rescue them, citizens stopped their bitching, gladly paid taxes and tithes, and eyed their neighbors suspiciously rather than pulling together with them. (Sound at all familiar?)
The book is easy to read, not overly academic; but as noted some of Harris' theories may seem hard to swallow. All the more reason to read them, I say.
As Harris said, "Every theory presented as a scientific concept is just that; it's a theory that tries to explain more about the world than previous theories have done. It is open to being challenged and to being proven incorrect."
Even if the new theories don't flatter, or feel nice.
Gracie says: Get a copy.
Title: Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture
Author: Marvin Harris
Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (December 17, 1989)