and the Dream Machine"
A fairytale for law drafters
John F. Wilson
Once upon a time, in the land of Squeedgee, there was a young
and clever Prince. He was admired by everybody and his name was Splendid.
He was sometimes called "PS" for short. He worked for one of
the Ministers in the Government of Squeedgee. The Ministers met together
from time to time in a thing called a Cupboard. It wasn't really a cupboard
- that is just the name people called it, although nobody really knew
why. It had always been called that since anybody could remember and none
could see any reason to change it. That's the way they did things in Squeedgee.
The Minister in charge
of the Cupboard was called the Supreme Leader and Ruler (SLR for short.)
There were several other Ministers dealing with different aspects of the
business of the country. One was in charge of the money and although he
had only been doing it for a year, he was quite influential in the Cupboard.
The others called him Junior Minister but Almost King (JMAK for short.)
Another Minister knew all about the laws; he was so important that people
called him Almost God (or A-G for short.)
The job of PS was to advise
his Minister on all sorts of important things, and to carry out the Minister's
commands. One of the most important things that the Ministers had to do
was to arrange for the making of Dreams. These dreams were made in a big
meeting-house in the sky called the Heavenly Regents (or HR for short.)
The Minister that got the most dreams agreed to by the HR in the course
of a year was generally regarded as the best Minister and could expect
to get into the Cupboard again the next year.
One of the main jobs of Prince Splendid was to prepare the Dream-making
Instructions (or DIs for short.) These were then sent to the Jovial Friendly
Wizard (or JFW for short) to be put into a form in which they could actually
be made into a dream by the HR It was important that the proposed dream
should be presented to the HR in the proper form, because the HR did not
really have much time to check on its details. They would often discuss
for hours or even days whether it was a good idea for people have the
particular dream, but they would not always worry themselves about the
details of it. Sometimes people who were having a nice dream would wake
up in terror in the middle of the night, finding that the dream had become
a nightmare, or did not end properly, or could not be made to work at
all. Prince Splendid wanted to avoid this happening to his dreams, so
he always made sure that his Dream-making Instructions followed the rules.
To help PS to write good instructions, the Jovial Friendly Wizard had
issued Guidelines for Dream-making Instructions. These were designed to
ensure that a dream when presented to the HR was as nearly perfect as
it could be made. They had come from China, which, as everybody knows,
is the place where there are lots of Wizards and Dragons and things, so
PS was sure they must be very good and followed them whenever he could.
~ Is it needed?
So, when the PS wanted to ask the Jovial Friendly Wizard to prepare a
dream, the first thing he did was to consider carefully whether a new
dream was needed at all for the purpose his Minister had in mind. Sometimes,
a dream was not the answer. It might be better just to tell people to
change their way of thinking about things, or not to expect particular
things at all. But if a dream was needed, the next thing that PS always
did was to check the existing stock of dreams to see if there was one
that, with a bit of dusting off, might do the job perfectly well.
It was surprising how often
PS found that there was an existing dream everyone had forgotten about,
one that nobody had used for a long time and was just what was needed.
The trouble was that PS had never actually seen what dreams there were
in the dreams stock, either because he had been taught outside Squeedgee,
or because he had not been taught about dreams. He had been taught a bit
about the Cupboard and the Heavenly Regents, but he had mostly been taught
about e-c-o-n-o-m-i-.c f-o-r-e-c-a-s-t-s, about f-l-o-w-c-h-a-r-t-s, about
purchasing of outputs, performance agreements and annual corporate plans.
(Yes, children, there are such things, though most people think that those
are just fairytales as well.)
In fact, PS had not really been taught anything much about the nature
of dreams, their function and operation, or how to make them. He had to
pick all that up as he went along, and he sometimes got a rather confused
picture of the whole process. Generally, that did not seem to matter very
much, because, as I said earlier, the Heavenly Regents did not look too
closely at the dreams they were asked to make and as long as several of
them were made each year, everyone was happy. Also the Jovial Friendly
Wizard was a Jolly Fast Worker, so it did not matter very much if the
Dream-making Instructions were delivered only a few days before the HR
was due to meet - or even if they hardly existed at all.
~ What will it
Still, PS was a conscientious sort of chap, and he did try to prepare
the Dream-making Instructions properly. So the third thing he did was
to decide just what it was that the dream was supposed to achieve. Some
dreams were to encourage people to do things they otherwise might not
want to do such as pay money to the Government. Others were to discourage
people from doing things they might otherwise want to do, such as polluting
the air and sea and land and destroying all the forests. (Believe it or
not, children, there were in those days actually people who needed to
be told not to do such things. They didn't seem to realise that they needed
clean air to breath and healthy crops to eat.)
Every dream had to have a purpose and a proper shape. If people were to
be encouraged to something they might not otherwise want to do, they had
to know what would happen to them if they didn't do it. If people were
to be discouraged from doing something they wanted to do, they had to
know what would happen to them if they did it. Sometimes, the dream would
allow people to do things, but only if they got permission from the SLR
or another Minister on a piece of paper issued by the Minister or one
of his elves.
~ What is in it?
Sometimes the dream would set up a special body to provide people with
the things they wanted, or to ensure they didn't do things they shouldn't.
Some dreams created jobs for elves to do and gave them quite important
parts to play in making the dream come true. Quite a few dreams allowed
a Minister to make little dreams, or dreamlets, to fill in the gaps in
the main dream if he thought it was necessary. Usually the Minister had
to check first with his colleagues in the Cupboard to see if it was all
right to make dreamlets.
Some dreams only altered existing dreams to add some new details, or to
remove a detail that was no longer wanted. Others replaced existing dreams
altogether if they had got worn out. PS made sure that he understood all
these different types of dreams, and in the Dream-making Instructions
he set out exactly what kind of dream his Minister had in mind for the
HR to make. He didn't leave the Jovial Friendly Wizard to have to guess
things. This made the JFW very happy.
~ How will it operate?
The fourth thing that PS did in the Dreaming Instructions was to explain
to the Jovial Friendly Wizard just how the dream was expected to operate;
who would be responsible for every part of it, how it would be enforced,
how it would affect people's lives and so on. He let the JFW know exactly
what it was that the dream was supposed to achieve. This also made the
The fifth thing the PS did was consult other people before sending the
Dreaming Instructions. Those people included anyone in the Government
or outside who might be expected to have something useful to say about
them. In particular he consulted the elves who dealt with people matters
(People Supply Council, or PSC for short.) And he consulted the elves
in the Ministry of JMAK, the one that dealt with money.
~ Bill of Rights
PS also checked that the DIs were consistent with the Underlying Dream,
the dream with which all the other dreams had to be consistent. Especially
the part of it called, for some obscure reason, Guillaume des Droits (or
William Notleft, in Plain English.) The effect of this part on everything
the elves did was rather important, though people did not always know
just why. Perhaps it was because the Guillaume's ancestors could be traced
back to the Norman Conquest - or at least to the Great Dream of a couple
of centuries later in the land of the Angels.
~ Legal advice
Another department that PS always consulted before issuing the Dream-making
Instructions was the Slumberland Guide (or S-G for short.) The S-G was
the chief elf in the Office of the Almost-God. He had under his command
several elves who were able to interpret dreams and knew what dreams there
were in other countries and how they had been interpreted there. These
elves could also tell the PS about any particular problem with his proposed
dream that he might not have thought about, and how such problems had
been dealt with in other countries.
The PS was rather keen to have this sort of advice, because he did not
want his dream to fall foul of the dreaded Court of Soothsayers. These
were people who could be asked to interpret dreams by the people who had
them, and sometimes they said that dreams meant something quite different
from what the PS or the Cupboard or even the Heavenly Regents thought
they meant. Consulting the S-G could avoid this sort of problem; though
not always, now I come to think about it.
One of the things the PS
had to be careful about was not preparing a dream for making by the Heavenly
Regents while the Soothsayers were in the middle of saying sooth on the
same subject as the dream. Doing this always made the soothsayers rather
cross, and threw everyone into confusion. PS also tried to encourage his
Minister not to propose that a dream should be dreamt before it had actually
been made. This tended to give people headaches.
Another thing the PS was rather careful about was accepting merchandise
from Dream Merchants who peddled their wares around Squeedgee and the
neighbouring countries. Although most of these Dream Merchants were well
intentioned, they often did not realise the effect of their dreams on
the countries they sold them to. Their dreams were usually taken from
much bigger countries and didn't always suit places like Squeedgee. They
might be too complicated, or too expensive, or be based on a different
Some Dream Merchants only
advised on what dreams might be useful, but others sold what looked like
complete dreams to the PS, who would then send them to the JFW for what
was called "vetting". The trouble with such dreams was that
the merchants sometimes did not know about the Interpretation Dream (known
in Squeedgee as "CAP. 7") without which none of the other dreams
worked properly. Or a dream merchant might try to incorporate a different
version of CAP. 7 in a dream, which created a lot of confusion.
The trouble was that the
PS did not know how to tell whether a dream offered by a Dream Merchant
was any good or not. This was because the PS had not learnt at school
anything about the making of dreams, as I have already mentioned. The
problem was made worse by the fact that the Dream Merchants were sometimes
sent by the rulers of big countries who were keen that the people of Squeedgee
should dream their type of dream.
In fact, if the PS thought about it, he would have realised that for the
cost of a single dream from a Dream Merchant, he could afford several
dreams made by assistant Wizards in the Office of the JFW. But for some
reason, there was supposed to be more powerful magic in a dream from a
Dream Merchant than in a homemade one. This was a big mistake. The Dream
Merchants often had their own reasons for wanting to encourage Squeegee
to buy one of their dreams. They sometimes hoped that their dream would
become the model dream for other countries, or even for the whole world!
So they put lots of different dreams together in a big omnibus dream.
One example was the Sustainable Development Dream, which would have given
people nightmares if they actually dreamt it. The JFW, when he began work,
soon put a stop to that, I can tell you!
Anyway, having gathered all the information he needed about the proposed
dream, and its likely effects on people who dreamt it, the PS put the
information down in joined-up writing on a big piece of paper called a
m-e-m-o-r-a-n-d-:u-m. He then sent this to the Jovial Friendly Wizard
and asked him to prepare a beautiful dream for approval by the Cupboard
and then by the Heavenly Regents. The JFW was always ready to oblige,
but although he was a Jolly Fast Worker, as I have said, he could not
actually do miracles and he needed enough time to prepare the dream.
This question of time is
a very strange one, children, for it seems to have the effect of making
normally intelligent people behave completely irrationally. Perhaps they
think that preparing a dream doesn't need time, but I can assure you it
does. And not only time to write it and draw the pictures and colour it,
but time for the Cupboard to approve it and for the Heavenly Regents to
make it. Let me try to explain. Are you still sitting comfortably?
The rules are really quite simple. Before the HR can be asked to make
a dream, the dream must be told to everybody so that they can object to
having it. After all no one likes being made to have a dream they don't
want, especially in a d-e-m-o-c-r-a-c-y. So the proposed dream has to
be published as a Guillaume (Bill in English) in the town newspaper called
the G-a-z-e-t-t-e. This must be done at least 30 days before the HR is
due to meet. The Gazette is only printed on a Friday (for reasons that
it would not be appropriate to discuss in a story for children). And the
Cupboard, which has to approve the proposed dream before it is put in
the Gazette, only meets every other Tuesday (ditto). Moreover, the Heavenly
Regents only meet every few months (more ditto).
Although 30 is quite a big number - more than anyone has on his or her
(or its) fingers and toes - PS went to a good school and can count up
to 30. So it should be quite easy for PS to work out which issue of the
Gazette the dream will have to be published in. If that is too difficult,
there is a nice big chart, with lovely coloured squares on it, which is
issued to all the Ministers and their senior elves, showing when the HR
and the Cupboard will be meeting during the year.
Unfortunately, PS keeps his chart on the wall behind his head and always
forgets to look at it before sending Dream-making Instructions to the
JFW. I think perhaps the Wicked Witch of the West (WWW) casts a spell
on the PS and makes him forget all the rules about the timetable for publishing
Of course, before the dream
is published, it has to be approved by the Cupboard, and the Cupboard
needs time to read the proposal, only a week, but still PS often forgets
it. And of course the JFW and his assistants need time to polish the dream
to make it nice and shiny before it goes to the Cupboard. This might involve
several attempts at the dream, and they might need to be looked at by
quite a lot of people.
What all this means is
that, even if PS wants only a very simple dream to be prepared by the
Jovial Friendly Wizard, he must get the Dream-making Instructions to the
JFW at least 10 weeks before the start of the meeting of the Heavenly
Regents when it is to be made. If the dream is a complicated one, the
PS should allow several months for the JFW to do his job. Otherwise, the
JFW might not be such a Jovial Friendly Wizard but might turn out to be
a Jolly Fierce Warlock instead!
~ No drafts please
There's one other thing that is very bad for the JFW and that is a malfunction
called "tunnel vision”. This happens when the PS, instead of
sending proper Dream-making Instructions, sends the JFW a complete imitation
of a dream, usually sold to the PS by one of the Dream Merchants. The
trouble is that the JFW, who is only human after all, will be tempted
to assume that the imitation, which looks like a dream, sounds like a
dream, tastes like a dream, feels like a dream, and perhaps even smells
like a dream, is in fact a dream when it might be nothing of the sort.
The JFW sometimes calls
this the "Crossword Puzzle Syndrome" which means that if the
crossword puzzle in the newspaper has been filled up with letters, it
is natural to assume that they make up the correct words, when on inspection
they turn out just to be random letters.
Rather often a dream purchased
from a Dream Merchant turns out to be like that, and it can take a lot
of trouble, first to identify the errors and then to correct them. Please,
children, try to avoid giving the JFW tunnel vision; and try to be alert
to the Crossword Puzzle Syndrome.
I called this a fairy-tale. That's because it describes how PS goes through
all the right steps in preparing Dream-making Instructions. Unfortunately,
all too often this really is a fairytale. The reality is that the JFW
receives a phone call or a two-line note from the PS saying "We need
a dream by tomorrow. Please prepare it for us." At those times the
JFW once again turns from a Jovial Friendly Wizard into a Jolly Fierce
Warlock However, he still, miraculously, manages to produce the dream.
Children, I am sure you
will agree that these things ought not to be. And I hope that this tale
of Prince Splendid and the Dream Machine will help to ensure that they
do not happen in future. Sweet dreams !
This piece was written when I was First Parliamentary Counsel in Fiji.
Prime Minister at the time was Sitiveni L. Rabuka (SLR). The Finance Minister
was James M.Ah Koy (JMAK). The lower chamber of the legislature is known
as the House of Representatives (HR). There is a Cabinet, an Attorney
a Solicitor General and a Supreme Court.
Permanent Secretaries (PS) are now known as Chief Executive Officers.
Everything else is more or less the same, except that I am now one of
Merchants peddling my wares in the region!
John F. Wilson