Shamans are those believed to have supernatural powers that can control outcomes. In Russia, they are the public advocates of against religious oppression, the displacement of indigenous and the recent neo-colonialism. Shamans, in historical literature, are thought to be sorcerers of primitivism and violence. As Anthropologists, how can we understand this violence over time?
Steven Pinker, the writer of “The Better Angels of our Nature” claims that there is more to understanding morality than just cultural relativism. There is a history, and this history insists “predation, dominance, revenge, sadism” or the many ideologies that have overpowered self-control, empathy and moral reason (2011:672). He argues that humans come from a primitive state, and overtime, come to be less violent overtime. In other words, it’s not that our culture and society is currently the best it can be, only overtime we can become Utopian and fix and tweak the many problems that exist today.
I don’t agree with this view, mostly because it doesn’t take into account the Anthropological way of doing things. His statistics are impressive, but at the same time, very filled with gaps, much like other statistics. It doesn’t explain much other than a correlation because there are many lurking variables of a cause. Furthermore, Anthropologists when studying a culture, do so within that culture. His Shamanic views are mostly stereotypes historical literature.
The fact is, their wrongdoings and benevolence of Shamans aren’t so black and white. It’s just such a complex thing to measure morality when their main tasks was for political defense They have many features of them which are misinterpreted by the outside world as wrong and right. We are judging them within our cultural systems, when in reality, we should be within theirs.
The writer says perfectly that “their turbulent histories of emphatic shamans, using all the senses they could muster, have perceived and tried to sooth the mess, changing legacies of intertwined personal and social suffering. In the process, shamans have become lightning rods of frea and hope for those who believe in them”