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Transcript of IOP
Nation-Building by Lena Chew
and Made of Gold by Alvin Pang
The steady klunk, klunk, klunk:
construction resonates across still air
from across the street where I live
where workers hammer
stone, wood and metal assiduously
building houses they can never
dream of, much less live in.
The heavy silence of a hot afternoon
breaks, and the dust slowly rises.
I wonder about these nameless people
about their families, their wives,
sons and daughters back home
for the money to lift them out of poverty
for the wailing babies to be fed
for their father to return
Do they know
or how that money he slaves for
is a pittance here, among the rising
office towers, sleek continental restaurants,
Gucci scarves, Chanel 5 in the air.
All so very post-colonial.
He is little more than a beast
of the modern burden
the dreams of a nation
bound, if nothing else,
Made of Gold
This too, is an image of ourselves:
Walls that bleed money.
Dusty streets lined with gold.
Wave after wave, a babel sea
of dreamers on our shores. They build
our towers like cliffs, strong
against the sky. They build our homes
and our temples. In return
we lead them to our gods. Some are blessed.
Others learn to stretch a day’s pay
for weeks, to be looked oddly upon
without flinching, to eat
with cracked hands,
First they take all my money.
Then they take me to JB in lorry,
later go to Singapore in tour bus.
I hide in luggage hole with five others.
I scared. They just push us in like that
Now I know they crooks but too late.
I cannot go back they will kill me I owe so much.
I cannot pay back enough. Agent take my passport
then dump me on the streets of Tekka. I wash
dustbin I scrub dump I sleep sometimes I eat.
This is all I got after working a
year. If only someone told
me the walls of Tekka
are not made of gold.
-Lack of a connection between foreign workers and society
-Negative effects of progress and development
-Dehumanisation of the foreign workers
Perspective of Persona
-Made of Gold:
First-person, foreign labourer
Use of contrast
-‘Rising office towers, sleek continental restaurants,/Gucci scarves’ contrasted with the ‘money [they] slave for’
-‘assiduously/building houses they can never/dream of’
-Lives of foreign workers differ greatly from the lives of Singaporeans
-Still work hard despite the difficulty of life
Use of contrast
-Made of Gold: Dreams vs. Reality
-‘Walls that bleed money’ and ‘streets lined with gold’
-Images of great wealth and splendor contrasted with reality of life
-‘[stretching] a day’s pay/for weeks, to be looked oddly upon’’
Effects of contrast
-Highlights the tough lives of the foreign workers in comparison to the relative wealth of Singaporeans
-Allows the reader to recognise the reasons behind the inability of Singaporeans to empathise with foreign workers
-Places emphasis on the hardship endured by the foreign workers
Portrayal of foreign workers
-Dehumanised, lack of identity
‘nameless people’, ‘beast/of the modern burden’
-Deceived by others; made to live according to Singaporean values
-‘take all my money’, ‘dump me on the streets’, ‘sometimes I eat’
-‘lead them to our gods’ suggest that foreign workers are being made to see things the way Singaporeans do
Portrayal of foreign workers
-Both poems reveal the true desires of the foreign workers
-‘Lift them out of poverty’ and ‘babel sea of dreamers’
-Perspective of foreign worker present in Made of Gold; helps to show how the workers feel about their plight
-‘If only someone told me… not made of Gold’
Progress and Development
-Both poems focus on the negative effects of development
-'towers like cliffs, strong/against the sky'
-'building...building...building/the dreams of a nation'
-Foreign workers are tools to achieve progress
-Poems effectively convey themes through the use of contrast, imagery and appropriate diction
-Portrayal of the personae is a critical element
-Insightful perspectives on the connections (or lack of) between Singaporeans and Foreign workers