Notes for a luncheon talk
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
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
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
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
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
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:
want a heart to be forever mine.
Want eyes to see me satisfied.
Gonna hang my heartaches out
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
does it! Easy does it!
Well, that's it. See you around the
* Resolutionist and lawyer, President of Interlex Group of Canada Inc.