The book revolves around two young men both with the same name Wes and who happen to share the same challenges of growing up in a poor neighbourhood, the people they interact during their growing stage and how those people shaped their lives in contributing on the decisions that they made that changed their fate.The book is divided into eight chapters, each chapter discussing the development stages and the changes that the two Wes encounter in life as they grew up. For the purpose of his paper I will consider two of the concepts which we can learn from this book. These are; the concept of choice and the theory of nature Vis a Vis nurture.
The concept or choice theory has been expounded by William Glasser. Glasser states that, choice trickles down to a person’s total outlook and understanding of the world around him relating to people, beliefs, etc. It starts from birth continuing throughout their lives, placing people who are important in our lives, thing we prize and systems we believe within the framework of our development. Therefore the choices that we make or that our parents, guardians or mentors make for us affect us directly through our day to day life and shape our destiny.
The other Wes who shared the same environment as the author Wes made choices that eventually sealed his fate. While his brother Tony tried to counsel him into making good decisions so as not to fall into a path of destruction‘‘ (The other Wes Moore) he loved his brother, but he had learned to ignore his occasional ‘do as I say, not as I do’ tirades. Tony by contrast was desperately trying to give his little brother information he thought he needed, the kind of information tony never got’’ (27). However, even with this advice from his older brother and regret shown by tony of the choices he had made in life, the other Wes chose to follow the lifestyle of his brother which slowly led him to gang related activities of selling drugs and shooting people.
The book also tells of how Tony who was the only role model to his younger brother the other Wes was regretting of the choices he had made in life. While he also had a choice to leave the gang and drugs business, it was hard for him to do so as he was now fully engrossed in it. Therefore, his choice was now limited to ensuring that his brother did not follow the path he had chosen ‘But no matter how tough he was, or how many corners he controlled, what Tony really wanted was to go back in time, to before he’d gotten himself so deep in the game, and do it all over. He wanted to be like Wes just like a soldier after years of combat, tony hated the war and wanted Wes to do whatever he could to avoid it. He was willing to risk seeming like a hypocrite.’
The choices that the other Wes made were influenced by his older brother who was his role model. Despite Tony’s warning to keep out of trouble, he had also taught Wes to never let someone get away with hurting your pride‘rule number one: if someone disrespects you, you send a message so fierce that they won’t have the chance to do it again’ therefore it was not surprising when the other Wes who looked upon his brother for advice involved himself in drugs and gang activities. At the same time, lack of a proper role model and guidance in making the right decision led him into early parenthood. It is apparent that the other Wes used to make short term decisions to satisfy his needs at that time as opposed to long term decisions. For instance when he was released from prison after a shooting incidence, he had made an informed decision to try and join the jobs corps center through a friend who had earlier left criminal activities. He excels in the centre. After completion of his training he is pulled back to drugs because his job was not well paying as the drug business. The reason for making this choice is influenced by the fact that he needs to fend for his family‘ though he wants to stay out of the game, he feels like he doesn’t have a choice if he wants to provide for his family’(145).
On the other hand, the author Wes who had a similar background to that of the other Wes guides us to understand how the choices that he made during his childhood stage and the firm choices that his family made shaped him to being successful in life. For instance his mother who had migrated to America in search of the American dream had earlier been married to an abusive husband. Her husband was involved in drugs and alcohol thus ended up beating her up. For a moment she thought that her husband would stop using the drugs but this was not to be. So she made a choice to leave him and was then married to her second husband‘she discovered that what she had foolishly thought of as his typical low-level recreational drug use was really something much worse. In a time of drug experimentation and excess, Bill was starting to look like a casualty’.It is through this choice she made that changed her course of life by meeting a loving husband who was educated and not quick to hit women.
After the death of her husband joy could not cope with the loss so she made a choice to move her family back to Bronx in her parents’ house so that they could help to raise the kids. This is seen as an informed decision as her parents were strict disciplinarians a trait that shaped the life of Wes. ‘My grandparents figured if these rules had helped their children successfully navigate the world, they would work on their grandkids too’ (42).
As for Wes, he explains how he was struggling to find himself in the new environment. The fact that he had enrolled in an all white school with rich kids while he came from a poor neighborhood made is ability to make decisions hard. Therefore, Wes narrates how he went through peer pressure and how his mother saw it wise to enroll him in a military school so as to save him from being lost to the street world completely. It is in this school that he changed his perspective of life and the way he looked at life ‘My mouth was aching. I was beside myself with anger and still confused. And embarrassedshould I have stayed there in the middle of the street, waiting for the boys to come backpart of me was aghast when I decided that the answer was no.’ (121).
While in school Wes states that he was not good in class work but he enjoyed sports especially NBA but his encounter with the best in the game made him think of education as the other option. His friend and uncle who were his mentors also helped in painting a picture of the stiff competition that he would face if he took the path of sports rather than education. ‘ Think about it man. It’s simple math. Only 60 players are chosen in the NBA draft every year. There are 341 Division 1 schoolsso I cut him off and asked him if he wanted to get another game. As a small smile appeared on his face again’ (117). Therefore, seeing the odds he faced, he decided to concentrate in his education a choice that now changed his entire life.
The concept of nature Vis a Vis nurture is also highlighted in this book. Nature encompasses of the environment, the neighbourhood or a place that one lives and how the same shapes our lives. Nurture on the other hand encompasses the protection, discipline and guidance that one is given during development stages and how the same discipline shapes his future.
In the book the environment is depicted to play a very minimal role on how a person tends to turn out in life. For instance, woody who was the other Wes’ friend was able to graduate from northern high school. This shows that even in a worse environment a person can still succeed but it depends on zeal that such person has to succeed in life.
Nurture on the other hand plays a vital role on how one turns out in life, for the case of the other Wes; he came from a single family. His mother was not well educated and the role of shaping the life of Wes was left to his older brother Tony who was involved in gangs and sell of drugs. The other Wes saw his brother as his role model and father figure therefore sought to aspire to be like him his friends. Most of the people in the neighbourhood also came from single families so those of the same age saw each other as a close knit of brotherhood. With no hope of education and no strong father figures for advice, the other Wes looked upon his neighbourhood gang as a family and sought for their help. ‘This was the crew. They would work together, fight together, stay together. An unbreakable bond united the crewfor many members, it was the only support system they had. It was family.’ (111).
On the other hand the author Wes came also from a single family as his father has died while he was still young and in the same neighbourhood as the other Wes which was laden with crime and drugs. However, his close family was strict and his mother a disciplinarian who valued education. Through this strict family life the author Wes was able to get a good education and since he had good father figures and mentors, he did not let his environment dictate how his life would turn out. ‘As I started to think about how I could become the person I wanted to be, I looked around at some of the people who had the biggest impact on my life..i thought of Rear Admiral Hill.he taught me an important lesson about leadership: it always comes with having to make tough decisions.’ (132).
The conversation that the two Wes in the book where the author Wes asks the other Wes whether they are the products of their environment gives two distinct answers. That our environment will only influence our lives if we only succumb to its challenges, but if we are strong and determined then we can rise from these challenges and make it in life. ‘Life’s impertinence, I realized is what makes every single day so precious. It’s what shapes our time here. It’s what makes it so important that not a single moment be wasted’ (133). Therefore this emphasizes the point that the environment does not shape the life of a person but the support that one gets from those close to him or her. It is through those that he interacts and deals with that shapes the future but not where someone comes from.
The book is useful to the course as it highlights the social challenges that the poor go through especially the African Americans in poor neighbourhoods which are laden with crimes and sell of drugs. While the picture painted for the black neighbourhood is true it should not be the only reason why the youth in those neighbourhood should not make choices to get out of by working hard and seizing opportunities that are offered to one with an education. The author attests to this fact when he visited South Africa and made a conclusion that they even lived liked kings in Baltimore as compared to the state in South Africa yet people do succeed from there.
The book also highlights how the choices that we make throughout our lives shape how we turn out to be as adults. While the environment cannot be excluded completely as the way someone turns out in life, the book mostly leans on the guidance; discipline and protection that someone receives from his family are the one that shape a person’s future. Therefore, it is imperative for parents to have a close relationship with their children in order to guide them through their struggles in life.
Therefore, no particular race in America irrespective of their social class should blame the government or the system for its failures but that every individual should work hard in order to succeed as we are the masters of our fate.All in all, the book is well written and is bound to stir the feelings of the reader. It is baffling and gives the reader the zest to work hard in order to succeed in life.
Wes, Moore. The other Wes Moore: One Name Two Fates. New York: Spiegel and Grau (2010).