I have a context sac next week and we've been using "Every man in this village is a liar" as our material.

This is the prompt/topic:
“We find who we are through the conflict we face."

Just wondering if anyone could briefly explain what the question is actually asking? What does it mean by "we find who we are".

And if there are any outside links I could use?


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1 Answer

Best answer

"We find out who we are through the conflict we face."

Context prompts, in some way ask you to pose the questions and then to explore possible answers provided through both text, real life and some exploration on the writer's part and also your own response to the text. The prompt suggests that a person's identity ("who we are" ) can be defined by struggles (conflicts that we face and changes that might occur over a period of time due to this conflict) ... and how and if these struggles are resolved or not resolved, and the consequences of this contention ("the fight") for the person that we become as seen by ourselves, or is perceived as becoming by others.

Much of your answer depends on not only on that discussion and exploration, but on the form of writing that you use to respond to the "prompt" - expository, persuasive or creative.

Megan Stack's work is "non-fiction" but as you read her book what changes? What opinions develop and from whose point of view do we assume some degree of authenticity and trust? Who changes? What changes and how?

Did you as a reader change in response to Stack's writing? What perspectives change over time? Does Stack become disillusioned - if so she does why and with what? If not, then why not?

Quotation: "Here is the truth: It matters, what you do at war. It matters more than you ever want to know. Because countries, like people, have collective consciences and memories and souls, and the violence we deliver in the name of our nation is pooled like sickly tar at the bottom of who we are. The soldiers who don't die for us come home again. They bring with them the killers they became on our national behalf, and sit with their polluted memories and broken emotions in our homes and schools and temples. We may wish it were not so, but action amounts to identity. We become what we do. You can tell yourself all the stories you want, but you can't leave your actions over there. You can't build a wall and expect to live on the other side of memory. All of the poison seeps back into our soil.”


How best does the above quotation help you?

Megan Stack's own story is worth watching: http://fora.tv/2010/08/06/Megan_Stack_An_Education_in_War


Gender perspectives here may also be important, as is the question of reportage and journalistic distance and how her coverage of war brings about changes in the psyche of the writer, as well as providing the reader with considerable insight into conflict. How much is she a bystander or an "active" witness?

Which characters does she report on who most exemplify this idea that we only find out about ourselves when we are faced with life or death choices? How are their individual identities and/or their collective identities redefined through and with conflict? From Ahmed, Mohammed Zaman, Atwar Bahjat, Nora and Raheem ... and others? Megan herself and her perception of her own country's involvement, and how America perceives itself and Americans perceive themselves? How other perceive Americans?

An expository essay would be perhaps the safest bet, but that choice is yours ... You may also need to look at contemporary responses to conflict and its reportage (Syria? Nigeria? Afghanistan? Ukraine?), as well as even to other war reportage (Vietnam, The Balkans, etc.). Depending on the breadth of your reading and the advice that you have been given from your school, you could draw on the history of war reportage, as well as the "victim's" perspectives when conflict defines "winners" and "losers" and what consequences that this has for collective as well as individual identity.

Adela Labban caring for mental patients ; Heshmat battling crooked Egyptian politics; Ahmed of Baghdad who meets the author and then disappears; Hussein survives a firing squad, conflict between Shia and Sunni extremism in Iraq, Qadafi's Libya, the Israel-Hizbollah war and its victims, and a funeral in Lebanon - Stack provides many instances of conflict and how such conflict characterises both her own initially naive responses and sympathies and how they change over time ...

Is it not ironic that her own identity as a journalist (of the highest order) is defined by her reportage of "her" victims' plight? Her compassion is authentic, but how influential has been her reportage been? How futile has her eloquence been? Has she indeed found "herself" or is she still trying to wrestle with the complexity of an ideological struggle refracted through the eyes of the "victims" of war about whom she reports? What she reveals about herself may be just as important as what she reveals about her victims and their identity (as well as her own) with and through war.

Hope this helps?

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Thanks for that! Just wondering, for an expository, do I have to make direct reference to the text? i.e. include character names etc.
Or could I just incorporate the themes that the text presents?
For example, in the text, America or warlords in iraq send troops to fight and soldiers just accept the fact that they have to go fight
I want to incorporate this theme into my piece by talking about people blindly following authority.
I haven't read the book in depth and have little understanding of the specifics, so I'm not really confident.
In an expository you would need to mention the text ... either directly or using it as an example or by drawing examples from it.

"America or warlords in Iraq send troops to fight and soldiers just accept the fact that they have to go fight. I want to incorporate this theme into my piece by talking about people who blindly following authority."

My question to you is not going to be helpful ... but, how "blind" is "blind"? Which side is "blinder" than the other? Were the Iraq soldiers more blind than the "Coalition" soldiers? Did they have less choice? Were they conscripts or were they professional career soldiers? Soldiers go to war with a certain knowledge, and they may or may not follow as "blindly" as you might think, HOWEVER focusing on the outrage at Abu Ghraib may give you some understanding of the "insanity" of war. Whether this is "blindness" or "insanity" or the lack or morality and those involved, you must make up your mind. The following links are "educational" as well as informative (be warned they are not pretty, even to read about), but I feel that your assertion that "people blindly follow authority" would not be justified by the "Nuremberg Defence". Soldiers have to obey orders and are trained to kill or be killed - is that "blind"? Remember that soldiers on both sides fought under orders ...

"Rules of Engagement" were developed for different situations as the contexts of war change from military to civil actions ... What war or act in a war is morally justifiable, and what is not? How "blind" are soldiers to the suffering of others especially the "enemy"? What happens if a soldier refuses to fight? I think that while Stack exposes how easily ideologies can inspire immoral acts, it does not easily explain why individuals respond with such "blind obedience" ... or does it.


Who is blind? The person issuing the orders or those who carry them out? What is "authority"? Do soldiers commit "murder" under orders? Perhaps, those who carried out the atrocities as Abu Ghraib are no different than the Saddam Hussein's of this world?

I would be careful not to drift too far from the prompt ...

If you have not read the full book the following link might help:


Good luck!