03/12/00: Pieter van Hiel and the Clash of the Technocrats of Gor (of Doom!)
by Pieter van Hiel

Fans of Mage: The Ascension, or any of the other World of Darkness games are probably familiar with the Technocracy. In those games, the Technocracy is a shadowy organization of technical magicians that are secretly trying to reforge reality. What most gamers don't realize is that the Technocracy is real.

In the small town Dundas, Ontario, there is a large brick house on the outskirts of town which has on its property an unusual sign. The sign is mounted on a twenty foot pole, and depicts a red-and-white "ying yang" symbol. Under this is written the word "TECHNOCRACY."

Several years ago, my father and I drove by this old house and the sign. I asked my father what it represented. He told me that it was the symbol of the "Church of Technocracy," but didn't know much else about it. The concept intrigued me, so much so that sometime later, in high-school, I started to write a science-fiction novel called New Heaven, New Earth, wherein a church based on the worship of technology tried to end a future dark age.

It wasn't a very good book, and owed too much to Herbert's Dune and Asimov's Foundation books. I got to chapter ten, and saved what I had on the hard-drive of my old XT, planning to come back to it later. One accidental hard-drive format later and it was gone forever, probably for the good of mankind.

I didn't give much though to the idea of Technocracy, or at least, to my idea of what it was, until a couple of years later. I found out it wasn't a church from reading a couple of old issues of Popular Mechanics . Rather, it was an activist group founded about the time of the Great Depression that seemed to promote the use of technology to better mankind. I found myself wondering about them. Did they still exist? What were they really like?

I did a little digging last summer, and in the fall of 1999, I arranged a meeting with a member of the organization in the basement of a pleasant suburban home in Oakville, Ontario. Although I was pretty vague on the details of Technocracy, I expected some kind of 1930s' futurism. I thought perhaps I'd hear some talk about tri-finned rocketships and world-spanning zeppelins, food-pills, and robot labourers. I expected a philosophy akin to the one expressed at the end of the 1936 movie Things to Come.

What I got was Ralph Rabb, former organizer, and now member-at-large, of Technocracy Inc. Rabb is 72 years old now, and he's been involved with the Technocracy for over half a century. Technocracy is a social and environmental movement that believes humanity is ruining itself with consumerism. To quote from one of their information briefs, "...with a continuous increase in total production, and a continuing decline in man-hours per unit of production, there will be a decrease in man-hours of purchasing power with which to buy that production. This discrepancy is the measure of our social instability. It was this inability to buy our mass production that brought about the economic collapse of 1929, and the Depression that followed. "

Technocracy was founded in the winter of 1918, by an American named Howard Scott. He brought together a number of engineers, scientists, and economists to form a research organization called The Technical Alliance. A decade after the foundation of the gro up, the world entered the Great Depression. In many ways the Depression must have seemed a validation of the predictions being made by Scott and his group. Certainly, it figures prominently in their literature. It also figures prominently in the mind of Ralph Rabb. \

Rabb's first personal experience with the social instability mentioned in the quote above was at the tender age of 6. He knows exactly how old he was, because he remembers the exact date. July 1st, 1935, at the height of the infamous "Dust Bowl" era in North America. Crops had failed across the continent, and many farmers were impoverished. Rabb experienced this first-hand, as a child in Regina, Saskatchewan. July 1st, 1935 was the day of the Regina Riot.

"There was no radio of TV at the time, so we all went down-town to this meeting of the unemployed that were marching on Ottawa for jobs,"Rabb said. "While I was there running around, this huge man came and said 'The Bulls are coming.' The R.C.M.P. and city police came and started attacking and knocking the brains out of the Communists. So, this event, which I never saw any reference to while I was in school or high-school, always bothered me , and effected me to the extent that I didn' t like crowds."

The experience also seems to have shaped his philosophy and personality in other ways. Rabb said that he was acutely aware of his family's shortage of money, and that there a number of things not right with society. He found no one with satisfactory answers, either at school or home. "I wanted to know everything, and I got into a lot of trouble. My parents, and everyone else, told me I had to keep my nose to the grindstone, study hard, get a good job, get a nice wife, get a nice home, get a nice car. That's it. I said, 'l'm not interested in that shit, I want to know what's going on.' I had a difficult adolescence," he said, smiling.

Rabb was first made aware of the existence of the Technocracy when a veteran moved in across the street and lent him some literature. Over the next 5 years, he looked carefully at the solutions offered by the group, before joining in his early 20s' . For the next 50 years, until the present day, he has been a champion of the Technocratic philosophy. According to that philosophy, the world has gone very badly astray. Rabb said that Technocracy is only well-developed solution to our problems.

"In order to solve these problems that we have and try to keep the essentials like clean air, clean water, and clean soil we don't have any choice but to apply Technocracy . First of all, we must rid ourselves of the social structure that we are in, and convert from a commodity valuation system to an energy accounting system. The social systems that we have, all over the world, are based on the valuation method, which was developed when things were being made mainly by human muscle," he said. "By measuring the energy cost of an operation, you can determine whether it's going to be safe, or whether it's going to be destructive . If you look out there at the 403 highway, or the Queen Elizabeth Way, what's going on? Why all this activity? For what? It's to maintain our economy. In the development of the machine, you had to have more and more consumers, or you had to have people consume more. And for a time, people did this, but then you reach a saturation point, and you have to develop credit buying, going into debt, and now the thing is to increase the debt at a faster and faster pace. In order for this, you governments, for instance, are cutting down on spending, but the consumer is left to take up all the slack. How long can that keep going on? I don't know. A lot of people are near the limit. People are maxed out."

Although he is passionate about the subject, Rabb admits that few people seem to be interested in Technocracy. He says the status quo is too powerful. As he puts it, the application of Technocratic principles is "Physically possible, but fiscally impossible." The remaining members are aging, mostly retired, and the message doesn't seem to be getting out anymore. The modern Technocracy isn' t particularly computer-savvy, either. They maintain a web page at www.technocracy.org, but email correspondence is rarely checked, and the staff at their headquarters will inform you that ordinary post is preferred.

Still, check it out. Read some of their literature online. Even if you aren't convinced by their point of view, the information can always be incorporated into a game. Just imagine the surprise of a group of mages who discover that a some Technocrats have moved into town, and then find out that they're REAL Technocrats, far more likely to defend themselves with a stack of informative brochures than technical magic.

The history and beliefs of the group are intriguing. I for one intend to reseach them further.  

Watch for next month's editorial, when Pieter van Hiel will tell us about the experiences he had searching for the "real-life Nosferatu" in the sewers of Hamilton, Ontario. "They smell bad and drink Old Spice rather than blood," he says.