The poem ‘The Planners’ by Boey Kim Cheng mentions the city structure and shows that perfection, uniformity and control over nature are the main concepts in this city plan. The wish for perfection and uniformity of the planners in the poem highlights another theme which is the control over nature. The aim of the powerful planners is to change the country they live in the way they want. Therfore, they want to have the power and potential to control the thoughts of people.
The planners referred in the poem can be analyzed in a broader sense as government because government is the effective power which changes the whole structure of the country. The first stanza of the poem describes what the ‘Planners’ do physically; “They plan. They build…” There appear to be an obsession with perfection and uniformity, for “The buildings are in alignment with the roads which meet at desired points. ” The word ‘aligment’ here shows the exactness and flawlessness of the construction.
The buildings are physically excellent however they are lack of real passion and emotion because they are not connected with the feelings of people. The reason for disconnection can be due to the extreme use of mathemathical calculations. Also, the lack of emotion is linked with mathematic due to the conception that numbers are cold and indifferent, in contrast with words. Moreover the words ‘gridded’, ‘permutations’, ‘points’ are used with mathemathical and scientific meaning. There is even praise and approval for mathematics mentioned here ‘the grace of mathematics’, in line six.
The last two lines of the stanza remark on the effect the working of the Planners have on the environment; that the Planners are even trying to eliminate the flaws created by nature. Again the wish for perfection is seen among planners. The use of personification for the sea and skies emphasizes the sense of defeat. The ‘draw back of sea’ shows that even the nature is not able to compete agains the planners. They are so strong that even the unlimited and infinite sky ‘surrender’. The theme of defeat is analyzed at this point.
The second stanza uses and extended metaphor for the country described in the poem (possibly Singapore) with teeth, words such as ‘dental dexterity’, ‘shining teeth’, ‘anaesthesia’, ‘piling’ and ‘drilling’ are used. The ‘shining teeth’ can be analyzed as how the planners are destructive. The ‘teeth’ are so strong that they can digest the whole country. The excessive talent and skill of the planners are seen as they can change the world into a mechanic place. Here, the Planners obsession with perfection is emphasized, flaws are erased. The Planners here are even trying to perfect their imperfect past, a near impossible feat.
This point is critical because the planners are not only wish for a present which is perfect and flawless, but they also want to change the past traditions and values in the way they want. Furthermore, the changing of past here can make the planners able to shape the ideas of people. Therefore, the history will not be as it used to be but changed into a way that which is also ‘new’. The word ‘anaesthesia’ mentions the idea that the society will not feel the change that they are going through because the changing of the past is done with dexterity by the planners. Amnesia’ is also critical in the sense that people will forget their history.
Forgetting the history means that people will also lose their traditions and values which will make them empty and ready to filled up with the ideas and thoughts of the planners. They are in a ‘hypnosis’ by planners so that they will not judge the government or anyone for the lost values and traditions because the society will not even notice it since everything is planned in a perfect manner.
The government will use propaganda and all the means possible to make their country forget their past, or remember a fake but perfect version of their past. The sentence‘the drilling goes right through the fossils of last century’ makes it clear that the planners are shaping not only the future but also the past. The flaws in nature are also corrected. ‘All gaps are plugged with gleaming gold’ underlines thay wealth and prosperity is used to cover up imperfections of the country and it is made to be perfect in every way possible, wearing ‘perfect rows of shining teeth’.
The last two sentence can be interpretted in two possible ways. First, the poet or the persone might have used the phrase ‘heart would not bleed….. not a single drop’ because although he is upset about the changes, he thinks that it is necessary. This means that the poet is thinking in a way that change is inevitable and tha planners should do what they atre doing. On the other hand, it can be commented that the poet is resigned because he thinks that he does not have the power to stop the planners changing the world.
Courtney from Study Moose