Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Towers of Strength
Outside my room, the Twin Towers stands majestically in the distance, gleaming against the painted night of the sky. All around, scores of others compete for attention, shining forth their lights and colours. Theirs is a futile effort; the UMNO building, with its red neon-like signs, spells hope and despair (sometimes both at the same time), while distance favoured the Matrade building this time. Unfortunately, it did nothing to hide its troubled past, the monolith looking every inch the complete, total and utter waste of money it has been, is and will continue to be.
The Twin Towers has become synonymous with Malaysia, a steel structure that has imposed its own influence on the Kuala Lumpur skyline. Not many mainstream and commercial films go by without at least silently crediting it as a cameo actor. Some would say that its acting is terrible, but to compare it to wood might, in itself, be insulting to the trees of the world.
What I want to talk about is the meaning of the Twin Towers. It has stood there for a fairly long time, but what does it really mean and signify?
I ask this, because in part of the justification of another mega-tower, Menara Warisan, is the reasoning that it would give us a new, and more advanced image. Do they not learn of the counting of chickens before the egg is hatched? Image comes from reality, not the other way around. A well is nothing without its water, because beyond that it is nothing more than a hole made up of a bunch of rocks. The water is the substance, the very reality that sustains the community around it. Empty structures are not what we need, but nevertheless, there is a need, I feel, to consider the desirable that beyond reality. In this case, the style over substance. We have the Twin Towers, but what does it mean in terms of image and perception…?
“I don’t think it is important,” a friend of mine retorted. “I mean, what does it mean if we have nice buildings when other things are not well-tended to? It won’t matter if we don’t have a sound education system.” Typical. That annoys me, that, when people avoid the question and give a different answer, especially if they are delivered like jewels of wisdom never thought of before. I asked for what is, I get a what if.
Is he wrong? Perhaps not, but we’re still at square one. The question crossed my mind not just because it is something I see every day when I go to sleep and when I wake up, but partly because I wasn’t around when it was built. The announcement of its building and the actual building process took place in my absence; its presence there was somewhat shocking when I laid eyes on it for the first time. I had known of it, of course, but just to see it with my own eyes for the first time was still something to behold.
Even stranger is the fact that no matter how many times I have seen it, it still doesn’t seem that tall. Even when it was officially the tallest office building in the world, as I stand there and aim my gaze at the very tips, it never did strike me as being that momentous, in terms of its size. What kind of image does it project when I myself don’t think all that highly (pun not consciously intended) of it?
I mention this because I am sure that there were people around back then who had protested it. I’m positive that many others, in addition to my friend, considered it a waste of money when other things could have been improved upon. Now nobody really says anything, beyond the few murmurs here and there. They look and think of what could have been. Perhaps the same fate would befall upon the much maligned Menara Warisan as well, a seemingly unnecessary venture at a time when it seems like the price of oil is being increased every other month.
There is no answer here that I can give you, for what’s mine is the result of my own journey. I do hope, however, that the time will come when people will truly analyse and consider the meaning of that which is actually in front of them, that which is done, rather than the lack.
What is, instead of what if…