Notes for a luncheon talk

                                                 to the Rotary Club of Old Montreal

                                                         Friday, November 17, 1995


                                                              by Jack R. Miller *

                                   Considering the Constitutional Question -

                                                 How to assemble in your basement

                                          a dispute resolution mechanism that works -

                                                with apologies to Popular Mechanics

                                                            and to Mad Magazine


          My Dad would have been proud today. He was a Rotarian and a very dedicated one. He set attendance records even though he was a diabetic from the age of 15 and when travelling on a meeting date, he would stop, take his insulin and attend the luncheon. And here I am, his son Jackie, addressing my Dad's fellow Rotarians. I remember as a high school student participating in the Rotary Public Speaking Contest on some topic such as leadership. No, I didn't win, but I remember, and the tears are not far away when I think of my father, so I must bring myself back to the present.

          Considering the Constitutional Question and how to assemble in your basement a dispute resolution mechanism that works,  I know that the ancestry of many of the members of this club is en bon Québécois la Chine. I myself live in Lachine, on 44th Avenue. I have heard that the people in China have been very creative and have invented many useful things, like gunpowder and paper. So I think I'm speaking to the right group for the subject that I have in mind.

          I'm an admirer of the magazine Popular Mechanics. I'm an admirer of people who can do things, like gods, that I can't, like hang a picture on a wall or change a light bulb. I'm being modest because I can actually do these things when I want to. But I don't think I could rewire my home or build a complete TV set from Canadian Tire supplies.

          My adolescence comes back again - some say it has never left me - and I think of the satiric review called Mad Magazine. You probably won't admit that you read it or have even heard of it. But they do take-offs and one of the take-offs that they did has stuck in my mind, a take-off on Popular Mechanics. The piece was entitled "How to build a Boeing 747 jet airliner in your basement" and then proceeded to list all the parts that you would require to have in stock, naturally on a just-in-time basis, before starting to assemble your 747.

          Now, I don't have satire in mind, but I know we're into being creative and inventive, and different ways of looking at things can be helpful even if it causes us to laugh at the same time, and especially if it does so. Now, I am also a realist. I've visited the Boeing plant in Everett in the State of Washington and I have stood beside a 747. It is BIG!  But it might come in handy to think big in this case too when you get down to your basement and begin work sometime this week.

          I'm here to help get you started, to get you over that hump, in a very practical way, by giving you a kind of shopping list so that you can get out there and start looking around for this stuff and get it into your basement. By the way, it is a 747 thing we're building together here and not a 6/49 Lotto.

          One last thought before giving you the list in case some of you may be wondering whether all this is necessary or that when the thing bursts through from the basement into your living room and takes over your house and you're ready to move it on out to market that somebody will actually want it.

          Let's face it. The thing we've got now, the referendum and the confrontation and the system, isn't working too well. It seems that there are a lot of losers out there and we're all getting poorer by the minute. Something is wrong somewhere when the national debt doubles when those in charge are striving mightily to halve it. Some guy, his name is Robert E. Lucas, has won the Nobel Prize for Economics this year for pointing this out and wouldn't you know it, but his ex-wife put in a claim for half the prize, so he's not any richer, at least not by half. But he did bring to our attention that catastrophic losses are being registered as gains in our national accounts and that some things of value are being left out altogether.

          There's a song that is reverberating in the open space between my ears these days that I think says it all. It's called “Safe in the Arms of Love” sung by Michelle Wright. No, no, I'm not going to sing. Here are some of the lyrics:

                   "I want a heart to be forever mine.
                   Want eyes to see me satisfied.
                   Gonna hang my heartaches out to dry.
                   Someday I'm gonna be
                   Safe in the arms of love."

                        It's called acceptance and, in my view, it must be brought into our national accounts if we want to be truly wealthy, prosperous. Maybe I could save you some time, about 5 years' worth, which is what it took me to figure it out. But, then, maybe, we all have to figure this out for ourselves. But here it is anyway for all of you, quick learners.

                        I'll explain it from my own perspective. I must accept my own uniqueness, what hangs me out there, not fear it, even rejoice in it, and then I must accept your uniqueness, not fear it and embrace it as part of my own values and then we, together, must look out there and accept the differences in the world and be glad in them.

                        Now back to the basement and putting together that shopping list. For an initial go, I thought I'd confine the list to about 10 things that are essential and leave out the many other things that are necessary. I remember that the Mad Magazine article called for 7,847,392 rivets to hold everything together. I know that we'll need many more million of those for our project. Beijing wasn't built in a day and there's a limit to what we can carry and put in the trunk or backseat of our car in any one outing.

                        Here's the list or perhaps like Victor Borge at the piano you thought that I'd actually never get around to getting it to you and I'd plead that I ran out of time. Of course, you might be relieved too, since the kids wouldn't be after you to assemble the mechanism. But no such luck. Here it is.

1.       Some stuff for drawing up a blueprint, like paper and pen, because you're going to have to design the thing.

2.       A few simple ground rules. You could look around the golf club, like “replace your divots” and perhaps your kid's art class like “don't throw things, don't call names” for some hints; it could become a kind of Treasure Hunt.

3.       Participants. These come in a wide assortment. Naturally, we'll want the politicians - we don't want to exclude them - and all ordinary folks.

4.       Cash. This isn't lying around and what there is is going to be tied to value, performance, return on investment and other such critters.

5.       Information. We want the real stuff, not what is filtered through the media. The genuine article. Some people to people stuff. Perhaps some storytelling with someone listening with empathy and someone else recording it.

6.       Choices. We want to know what they are in all their detail, passionately and dispassionately. You might have to go to a number of shops for this item.

7.       Dialogue. Hey, after we feel informed and have some sense of our options, we want to throw out that discussion stuff - you know "discussion" as in “percussion” and “concussion”, and get some of that dialogue thing - you know, looking for wisdom and what is wise.

8.       Decisions. These, you won't find in the first shops that you go to. In fact, they come along about 2/3 of the way through the assembly. Nevertheless, we'll want to pick up enough to get started and we can get the rest just-in-time.

9.       Implements. We want to implement the decisions we'll be making so that we'll need some implements, things for carrying things out and building what needs to be built or rebuilt.

10.     Love. Whoa! whoa!  Don't jump up like that!  I'm not talking about those soggy things but things that you can really get a grip on, the same stuff that cooperation is made of. Something like the acceptance thing. Even the economists are catching on and the bankers, too. Whoa!  whoa!  Easy does it!  Easy does it!

            Well, that's it. See you around the water cooler.


* Resolutionist and lawyer, President of Interlex Group of Canada Inc.



All Rights reserved Interlex Group © 2005