How Stories Change Honor Codes (I)

A friend Kent got in a taxi to travel between two Central Asian cities. In the car with him were the (male) driver, and two other men. Then a young girl was placed in the final seat by her father, who instructed the driver to take care of her until the final destination. As they drove along, the three men began talking about the various women in their lives, which naturally made the young gal uncomfortable. Then they addressed her, “Come to my house. I will feed you. It will be a relaxing time.” They began discussing among themselves how good it would be to stop the car and spend time with the girl.  She was visibly uncomfortable. Turning to Kent, proud of their manly intentions, they asked, “So what do you think? Do you like that idea?” Kent replied, “Well you could do that if you want to. It’s your choice. But it reminds me of a riddle. ” “Oh yeah, what riddle?” they responded. And Kent told them this… “So he walks out of his house onto the street. As he’s walking along confidently, he looks over and he says to himself, ‘Wow, she looks good. I think I’ll have her.’  So he goes over and does his thing with her. He keeps strutting down the street, and he sees another and says ‘Mmm, I like her. I think I’ll have her too.’ So he goes over and fulfills his desires with her. Then he sees some food laying there, so takes some for himself. Then a third time her sees a good looking one, takes her, and then carries on.  Who is he?” At this point the three men are glowing in anticipation, naturally thinking, “Wow, what a real man to exert such power!” “He is a dog!” Immediately the car was silent.  “So, you can choose what you do and how you live. As for me, God created me a man, and I’m choosing to live like one.” There was no more salacious talk. 640px-Stray_dog_in_Rome How the Dog Story Challenges Honor Codes At the surface rhetorical level, Kent’s engaging parable with a shocking conclusion captured the listeners’ interest.  But more fundamental was how that parable functioned to redefine the listener’s honor code (=the internal value system defining honor and shame).  The parable of a dog rewrote the assumed narrative of honorability and shamefulness.  New attributions of worth were created.  Narratives reconstruct notions of honor and shame by effectively relocating listeners as characters in an alternative plotline. The dog parable successfully removes womanizing behavior from cultural discourses attributing glory for gender conquests/dominance.  Kent redefined the salacious talk with an alternative discourse about scavenging canines, a debasing and shaming reassessment (cf. 1 Sam 17:43; 24:14; 2 Sam 9:8; 16:9).  A simple, brilliant story subverted their honor code, and helped them define their actions more in line with God’s honor code. Have you heard/told any stories that likewise subvert people’s honor code?  Please share!  The next 2 posts will also explore how stories subvert honor codes.

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3 Comments on “How Stories Change Honor Codes (I)

  1. While getting his car fixed In a Central Asian country, my husband’s mechanic gestured to the pictures of scantily-clad women hung around the shop. “How do you like our ‘neighborhood girls?'” he asked. “Would you like to try them out?”

    My husband replied, “Why would I want to drive a Tico (cheap, common car) when I’ve got a Mercedes at home?” By equating his wife with a status symbol, he honored the marriage relationship.

    Sometime later, the mechanic ran into my husband again and was all smiles. “Hey, I saw your American Mercedes driving down the road.”

    • Great story! Thanks for sharing. Not only did he honor the marriage relationship, but he subverted the mechanic’s notions of honor and shame. And he did so with an indirectly with a question, the way they naturally communicate. However, one part of the story is objectionable – equating the mighty Tico with shame… I think a Niva is a more apt symbol of shame. 🙂

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