Every Man in This Village is a Liar by Megan Stack A Brief Synopsis

What is Every Man in This Village is a Liar about?

A few weeks after the planes crashed into the World Trade Centre on 9/11, journalist Megan Stack, a 25-year-old national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, was thrust into Afghanistan and Pakistan, dodging gunmen and prodding warlords for information. From there, she travelled to war-ravaged Iraq and Lebanon and to other countries scarred by violence, including Israel, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, witnessing the changes that swept the Muslim world, and striving to tell its stories.

Every Man in This Village Is a Liar is Megan Stack’s unique and breathtaking account of what she saw in the combat zones and beyond. It is her memoir about the wars of the 21st century. She relates her initial wild excitement and her slow disillusionment as the cost of violence outweighs the elusive promise of freedom and democracy. She reports from under bombardment in Lebanon; documents the growth of unusual friendships; records the raw pain of suicide bombings in Israel and Iraq; and, one by one, marks the deaths and disappearances of those she interviews.

The Prologue

The Prologue is Megan’s way of looking back on 10 years of killing and dying. She says that “… the first thing I knew about war was also the truest, and maybe it’s as true for nations as for individuals: You can survive and not survive, both at the same time” [p.4]. Megan reflects that the US determination in the wake of the September 11 attacks to go out and ‘tame all the wilderness of the world’ was an instinctive response. With the benefit of retrospect Megan surveyed the damage this folly has done to the US, to the affected nations in the Middle East and to her. In the end she judged that September 11 was the beginning of a ‘disastrous reaction’.

The quote “Every man in this village is a liar”

Megan realises that in the new reality of the war on terror, truth is no longer an absolute but the servant of political necessity. In Pakistan someone said to Megan, “Every man in this village is a liar” [p.9]. She explains it as “… one of the world’s oldest logic problems … If he’s telling the truth, he’s lying. If he’s lying, he’s telling the truth. That was Afghanistan after September 11” [p.9].

Conflict in the Text

The text is primarily concerned with Megan’s encounters with violent military conflicts in the Middle East. It does also deal with conflict on many levels. Not only does it examine deadly force used by countries at war it also considers how people subjected to this invasion or assault live with the constant fear of arrest, torture or death.

Megan also contemplates her own survival of what covering these wars has done to her as a person. In effect she documents the political and also moral price of the war on terror for America. She speaks about ‘sacrifice’ in chapter 8 [p.96] in countries that have historical conflict that stretches back over centuries. As a result Megan asserts that “Violence is a reprint of itself, an endless copy” [p.96].

Writing an Essay on Conflict

The challenge when writing a Context Essay is to think outside the box when it comes to the IDEAS that the Context is based on. The task in the SAC’s or Exam is to determine the exact nature of the relationship between an idea and the text. The set texts are chosen so that they reflect the issue of encountering conflict on many levels. It is a good idea to use the characters in the set text as a way to explore the context but also to consider the implications of their actions, responses and efforts to resolve their conflict. The next task is to use the prompt you are given in the SAC or Exam as a starting point for your ideas in your own writing.

Ask yourself questions about Conflict

The Context of Conflict asks you to question the types, causes and consequences of conflict. There are many different types of conflict, ranging from:

  1. Internal conflict: When a person is confronted with a difficult choice to make. It is a mental or emotional struggle that occurs within a character‘s mind.
  2. Conflict of conscience: When a person struggles internally either because they have done something they feel is wrong, or are being asked to overcome their conscience and do something that they feel is wrong
  3. Cultural conflict: When people from different cultural backgrounds disagree, find it difficult to live with one another or even fight because of their inability to understand one another (either literally, in terms of language, or because of different beliefs, traditions and cultural practices)
  4. Interpersonal conflict: When two or more people disagree or fight
  5. Physical conflict: When there is a conflict that leads to physical violence
  6. Familial conflict: When there is conflict between people from the same family
  7. Generational conflict: When there is conflict between people from different generations (this often overlaps with familial conflict)
  8. Class conflict: When there is conflict between people of different social classes
  9. International conflict: Conflict between countries. Think about the text Every Man in this Village is a Liar by Megan Stack where conflict in the Middle East is on a regional level that involves countries after 9/11. Think about the complexities and issues of Conflict and nationhood / Conflict and political power / Conflict and cultures / Conflict in paradox / Conflict without hope or despair /Conflict and conscience.
  10. National conflict: Conflict within countries, such as different ethnic groups.
  11. Local community or neighbourhood conflict
  12. Science and Religious conflict: Conflict between science and religion is based on two conflicting ways of knowing, one based on faith and authority and the other on observation, reason and doubt. Think about the text Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht where the great religious powers of the Catholic Church bring all their ideological firepower to battle against Galileo’s science because he was a threat to their supremacy in the universe. Think about Conflict and power / Conflict and morality / Conflict and truth / Conflict and the individual. In terms of more recent conflict with the Catholic Church have a think about writing on the Royal Commission Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse in not only Catholic institutions but also other groups who abused children. Think of the consequences for the victims of conflict and the emotional stress and trauma taking on the might of the Catholic Church long after the physical conflict is over.

Conflict also asks you to think about how it arises

What are the causes of a particular conflict, or conflict in general? The causes of conflict may range from ignorance and prejudice, to self interest and fear, to the struggle for power, justice or truth. One might even argue that conflict is an essential or inevitable part of human life.

Finally, Conflict asks you to think about its consequences 

You might like to think about how individuals, or a society as a whole, respond and react to conflict. The way an individual or a community responds to conflict reveals a lot about them, especially their strengths and their weaknesses. You might also like to think about the lasting consequences of conflict for individuals, families and communities. Conflicts rarely end once the war is over, or the fight has been won. There are winners and losers in every conflict, who remain affected long after the conflict is over. The consequences may range from trauma and physical and emotional pain to more positive outcomes, such as change, opportunity and growth. One thing is certain: people are changed by experiences of conflict.

Online Tutoring of English using Zoom