Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The bee-yotch is back!

Well, Dear Ones, although I am still basking in the afterglow of the Obama victory (while praying, as much as an agnostic prays, that it truly is a victory for all of us), I feel it's high time to get back to snarkin'. For the past couple of weeks I've been so busy with work, and with the fact that I finally figured out how to use Twitter, that I've been seriously neglecting my snark duties.

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I'm lacking in gratitude or thankfulness, particularly as we in the US of A approach that government-sanctioned day of giving thanks, but snarking has its place too. In fact, many people actually thank me for it.

Cosmic Connie: full of rage?
Speaking of being thankful, one of the things for which I am profoundly thankful is that the world is bursting at the seams with armchair psychologists, most of them named "Anonymous." There's one around every corner, just waiting to help us negative naysayers explore our deepest issues. I received a comment from one of them not long ago, in response to
one of my snarky-snippets posts from last month.

Anonymous said...
I stumbled across this site and got caught up reading all about schirmer and proctor and the more I read the more sick I felt. I see you Connie just filling the blog with words words words, you're obviously very intelligent but when I see someone hiding behind words the way you do I see a person filled with hate and rage. You are obviously very damaged and take delight in cutting down those who have succeeded with their lives on one level or another but the poison remains in you and in those who believe your linguistic tricks (eg. "word has it" that connie was molested as a child... - leaving your readers to believe that you have some special insider information) I noticed in your profile that you call yourself a "smartypants" and ironic but you are hiding behind language rather than face the rage that you have in your body - What's really ironic is that you deride Osho in one post yet he actually produced techniques to help people with dealing with that kind of rage. Techniques that have helped improve the lives of many thousands of people all around the world - one has to ask just what you are 'contributing' to the development of the world with this kind of hate filled projection of your own inferiority complex.

I don't expect that this comment will be approved - in fact I anticipate never seeing it again - but that's ok - as long as you get it... I sincerely hope you "get it" because this blog is a waste of a sharp intellect and a blessed life.

5:09 PM

Click here to see my response, which is followed by Ron's. And in case you're wondering, I do have "insider information." In fact, out of respect for friendships I have formed, I haven't even used all of the insider information I have. I may never use it; I don't use anything unless I am given the go-ahead by those who have been kind enough to supply me with insights. Let's just say that I have enough data to feel safe in claiming that while I occasionally may err in details, I'm definitely snarking up the right tree, if you know what I mean.

Mamas, don't send your kids to this "Camp David"
So I was bopping around the Net, minding everyone else's business but my own, when I came across yet more evidence that Aussie Secret star David Schirmer, aka the Blunder From Down Under, is still busily engaged in painting a picture of himself as a Good Person Who Truly Wants To Make A Difference. He and his lovely but long-suffering wife Lorna (who, word has it (oops, Anon, there's that phrase again), recently traveled to the US with the pastor of the Schirmers' church) are still involved in
Youth Destiny, a Law Of Attraction camp for kiddies and teens. Here's a snippet from a description of one of the sessions:

Whilst teaching this content, sessions were made fun and energising. Sessions began with music (supplied by DJ, Matthew Schirmer [David Schirmer's son]), dancing, hugs and conga lines. Through theory sessions if energy levels were dwindling, this was easily fixed with ‘free hugs!’

For the love of G_d, Aussie parents: at the very least, keep your teenage daughters away from that camp. And guys, if you're married to a MILF, better keep her away too. I'm just sayin'.

Gimme that New-Wage religion...
Dear Ones, when I'm wrong, I'm wrong, and I'm not afraid to admit it. And behold, I have beheld evidence that I have been deeply wrong about the motives of one of my favorite snark targets, Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale. After reading some recent blog posts and viewing some videos, I now see that he clearly is divinely guided in everything he does, including his car buying.*

On his November 18 blog post, he wrote about a recent book signing in Chicago. A woman in the audience asked him about his extravagant car collection. In writing about the incident, he appears to be subtly snarking about the person who asked the question, but he really isn't, of course; he is just spouting divine wisdom.

"When is having so many cars enough?" [asked the woman in the audience]


The person asking the question couldn’t articulate herself very well, so answering her was a challenge. But I had just told everyone about my $375,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom and it may have made her wonder about buying so many cars.

I spontaenously [sic] said something in the moment that turned out to be wise.

"I haven’t gone seeking any of my cars," I explained. "They came to me. I stumbled across the Steve Reeves '76 Jag. I stumbled across the Steven Tyler '98 Panoz Roadster. I never ever imagined owning a 2008 Rolls-Royce. I simply said yes to them when they were in my awareness and everything seemed to fit. I think the great secret to living a happy life is to say yes to life."

As it turns out, Joe was paraphrasing himself as well as his questioner in his blog post, and the post didn't even begin to do justice to the profound wisdom he shared in that Chicago book store. When you see the actual video, it is clear that the woman who asked the car question couldn't "articulate herself very well" because was intimidated by being in the presence of a Master, as well she should have been. Joe explained that as with all of his other car purchases, he didn't chase after his Rolls-Royce Phantom. (He didn't mention that flying Panoz that flew out of his reach not long ago, causing him to go into a snit that lasted several days, because, obviously, that was a car he DID go after, and didn't get.)

He 'splained to his Chicago audience, "I felt divinely guided to receive [the Rolls], and when I received that car I also received an idea that became a money-making profitable idea [that I issued to my e-mail list], and I started making $10,000.00 driving people around [who were] wanting to have an evening with me sitting in the back of the car. [So] the car increased my prosperity. The car increased my abundance. I didn't ask for the car, and I think that's the big difference."

"The big difference" he was referring to is the difference between being guided by the Divine and guided by "pure ego." He, of course, has gone beyond that whole pure-ego thang. He goes on to say that the only thing that would have been wrong about the whole deal would have been if he'd resisted the gift that was being offered.

Here's the link to the vid.

So now you know, and if you were a Joebot who was having doubts about the motives of your role model (or Rolls model, as the case may be), you can rest easy. You can also rest easy knowing that another extravagantly expensive car Joe recently bought, the Scorpion (starting price $150,000 US), is manufactured by yet another person who was Divinely inspired. In fact, this car is "God's Own Super Car," at least if we are to believe the title of another recent blog post of Joe's.

The other day I drove to Ronn Motors and saw their first hydrogen eco-exotic sports car, the Scorpion. I later met with the man who created it, Ronn Maxwell. Turns out the Scorpion design was inspired. Later I’ll post a video of Ronn explaining how God spoke to him about the car...

A friend of mine pointed out that this somehow reminded him of the episode of the old Fox sitcom Married... With Children in which Al Bundy was divinely inspired to manufacture and market "God's shoes." If you have 22 minutes to waste (and aren't hampered by fair-use issues as we satellite Internet subscribers are), here's the link.

Much has been made of the Scorpion being an eco-friendly car, and it's good to know that it has been Divinely inspired and all that. But I am still left with one burning question: Why didn't G_d inspire Ronn Maxwell to make a car that ordinary people could afford?

We must believe in magic!
And before I go, I wanted to mention that Joe apparently sent out an email to his list last weekend claiming that the
"Pyschic Demand" program, which I've mentioned here a few times, was the technique he used to get that much-bragged-about Rolls Royce Phantom, as well as the "muti-million dollar hidden estate" he just bought. He says Psychic Demand is also responsible for his latest book's bestseller status on Amazon. (Regarding the Amazon success, direct solicitation of marketing assistance from hundreds of thousands of folks via his email list, his blog and Twitter would have been my guess, but no, he says it was Psychic Demand that did it.)

Now, for the benefit of those who don't remember Psychic Demand, it is a technique whereby you grab the Universe by the collar, get in its face, and say, "Look, Bucko, hand over the goods or else." According to the promo page, "This is the actual secret method used by Joseph, Abram, Moses, Plato, Phidias, Shakespeare and other legends throughout history." Here's more stuff from the promo page (I know I've quoted some of this previously, but it's just too good not to repeat):

[We] decided that we would use Psychic Demand to only attract ethical people to this site. That's why we will not advertise this site, or do anything to bring the riff-raff here.

We are attracting only ethical people -- people who care about their family, friends, and the planet...

For the sake of all concerned, do not order right now if you will use this to try to manipulate others or to do harm in the world. We only want advanced souls to use this power -- and to use it for good.

I guess sending links to the site to a huge email list doesn't consitute advertising. What's really important, though, is that Joe's success wasn't due to the Law Of Attraction as taught in The Secret, nor to his quantum home tapping system, nor to Ho'opononononononononononono, nor to Pelmanism, nor to the five steps he wrote about in Spiritual Marketing, nor to the five slightly different steps he wrote about in Spiritual Marketing's reincarnation, The Attractor Factor, nor to one of those expensive Hindu prayers (a yagya), that he credits for getting a major publisher to notice and buy The Attractor Factor. And it wasn't even due to his having reached that ultimate third...oops, I mean fourth...step of Awakening. Nope, he has the new mansion and the Rolls and bestselling author status because of Psychic Demand.

Best of all, Psychic Demand only costs nineteen bucks, which is good news for you. Think of it: in order to have everything you could possibly want in life, you don't have to spend five thousand bucks to ride with Joe in his Rolls, or twelve thousand to attend a special Awakened Millionaire Weekend with him. Just hand over a measly nineteen dollars, and you'll have the Universe at your command.

On that note, I'll let Crystal and the Muppets sing us out of here (warning: if you are offended by seeing French-speaking puppets undressing a beautiful woman, do NOT click on this link).

* Sarcasm alert, in case you hadn't figured it out. Or snarkasm alert, as the case may be. Good Goddess, it's great to be back in the saddle.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Musings on the Presidential race

Okay, I admit it: Over the past few days I have been touched, even to the point of tearing up on occasion, as I've watched footage of the jubilant celebrations in the streets and parks and on college campuses across the country – and indeed across the world – in the wake of Barack Obama's election. While I agree with those who say the United States needs to work towards a post-racial society, I really can't fault anyone for wanting to "linger over the moment" as long as possible before reality sets in and the real work begins.

For Obama the real work has already begun, of course, but even on election night he appeared to have deliberately chosen to err on the side of seriousness rather than triumphant giddiness. He has said repeatedly that change isn't going to come overnight, or even within his first term, but that memo has yet to reach the cheering masses.

The media are having a field day with the historical and symbolic significance of this Presidential election. Martin Luther King's famous 1963 "I have a dream" speech in Washington DC has been invoked repeatedly, and the talking heads have mentioned a few times that Barack's next residence, the White House, was built partly by slave labor.

It has also been noted more than once that for over a century after slavery was abolished in the US, black people in this country were, in countless ways, shamefully regarded and treated. I mentioned in a previous post that I'd recently begun reading William Manchester's massive 1974 work, The Glory And The Dream: A Narrative History of America 1932-1972. I was struck by this snippet from Manchester's description of Washington D.C. in 1932, the year the country hit "rock bottom" in the Great Depression:

The District's five daily papers were crowded with news of social unrest in 1932, but none of it was about Negroes. Although 26 percent of Washington was black (the highest ratio of any American city), Negroes accepted their appalling lot with remarkable unanimity. "Dark-skinned children of the South," a government guide explained, were confined to domestic service and "manual work." Department stores, movies, and government cafeterias were closed to them. Black workmen digging the foundations of the new Justice Department building on Pennsylvania Avenue either brought their lunches or went hungry; even if they wanted a glass of water they had to walk two miles out Seventh Street to find a restaurant which would serve them. The president of Howard University, a Negro college, was a white man. When President Hoover sent Gold Star mothers to France, black mothers were assigned to a second (and second-class) ship. And the most popular radio program in the country, Amos'n'Andy, was a nightly racial slur, with its Negro parts played by two white men affecting minstrel show accents ("I'se regusted"; "Dat's de propolition")....

Our nation's capital was indeed built on the sweat and blood of thousands of black laborers. And although I'm not literally a believer in spirits, I find that it is not too difficult to imagine the ghosts of those nameless multitudes lining the streets of Washington on the day of the Inaugural Parade.

It has, indeed, been a long time coming.

Race is alluded to in Leonard Cohen's song "Democracy," the video of which I linked to in my post the other day, as did numerous other bloggers in a celebratory mode:

It’s coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin’
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.
The lyrics reflect the fact that this song was released while the country was still reeling from the shattering events of the early 1990s, such as the first Iraq war and the LA riots. Now, of course, we're in yet another war in "the desert far away," one which has dragged out considerably longer than the first effort, and the sad fact is that even today there is an appalling amount of racism of various types in the USA. It surfaces here and there in ways that always dismay but rarely surprise me. While I think it's safe to say that most people who were against an Obama presidency simply didn't care for his politics, I've heard some actually say that when it comes right down to it, they "just don't want a n----r in the White House."

Yet as Steve Salerno pointed out numerous times on SHAMblog, anyone, black or white, who supports Obama BECAUSE of the color of his skin is also indulging in a form of racism. (And by the way, I recommend that those who dislike Obama for racial reasons (or any other reasons) read Steve's November 5 blog post. Among other things, Steve points out that because his mom was white, Obama will be not only our first black president but our 44th white one.)

It's time to get past all of the racial stuff, and I like to think we're on our way. But even though I'm sure that eventually I'll get sick of hearing the talking heads natter on about the momentousness of it all, I am, like so many Americans of all colors, savoring it for now.

I'm not some starry-eyed cultist, as some have accused "Pro-bamas" of being.* My eyes are open and free of stars...well, other than those billions I see when I gaze up into the clear night sky here at The Ranch. To tell the truth, I was automatically a bit turned off by Obama at the beginning because of the famous "Oprah connection." While I admire Oprah's taste in contemporary fiction (though not in "nonfiction"), I've never been able to get over her wholehearted endorsement of The Secret, not to mention her gushing over Esther and Jerry Hicks and their imaginary pal(s) Abraham. She has shown poor judgment in the past in other ways as well (can you say, "James Frey," boys and girls?). Notwithstanding my long-time support for Presidential candidate Dave Barry and, more recently, my support for my friend Lana Walker-Helmuth's Presidential race, I actually thought Ron Paul had the most sensible ideas to get our country out of its slump.

But I came around to Obama, not because of Oprah but in spite of her, and not because of the throngs of his frenzied admirers shouting slogans at rallies, but because in the end, he seemed to me to be the best of the available choices. I know that I have several friends, some of whom are regular readers of this blog, who disagree vehemently with that opinion. But they are still my friends, and I'm still theirs.

I don't look upon our new President-elect as the savior of our nation. And I know that if Obama lives up to all or even most of his promises it will be because he is a truly exceptional man. If he fails to meet our expectations, it will no doubt be because he is just another politician after all, and, of course, the detractors will be out in force to say, "We told you so!" Odds are that Obama is somewhere in between "exceptional" by the definition above, and "just another politician," though right now my opinion is that he seems to be closer to the "exceptional" end. Either way, from a practical standpoint the color of his skin isn't relevant, and I think most of us know that.

But from a symbolic standpoint...well, that's something altogether different. Obama may be half white, but he "looks" black. And the symbolic significance of this is huge. We know it. The world knows it too, and much of the world is excited for us. I wonder if it's too much to hope, at this point, that Obama represents just enough of a "face for change" to give pause to even our enemies, some of whom might actually gain, or regain, some respect for America.

I know the euphoria will wear off, that at some point it will dawn on some of the idealists that Obama's election is really not "proof" after all that anyone can be President. It still takes, more than anything else, boatloads of money, a genius for marketing, a considerable ego and yes, a certain amount of ruthlessness, to reach that lofty position. (In Obama's case it also helped, as has been discussed elsewhere, that he is youngish, nice-looking, educated and eloquent.) Still, I do hope the momentum that was begun during this campaign – the energy that brought out younger voters as well as older, disillusioned ones in unprecedented numbers – can continue, and that it will translate into something truly good for all of us.

I am also more than aware that the pundits and hatemongers are poised at their keyboards and microphones and cams. One can feel their sharp eyes and hot breaths on Obama. They're not going away any time soon, because there is an enormous market for what they have to offer. (There's a good reason that Rush Limbaugh recently nabbed a $400 million contract from Clear Channel!) But look, we need those folks around too, for balance, or at least comic relief.

Besides, if Barack and the Democrats really screw up, I am not above switching parties. I've done it before and I will do it again if I have to.

For now, though, I find myself smiling over this election the way I haven't smiled over a Presidential election since, oh, 1996 or so. I find myself exhilarated in a way that I haven't been since the fall of the Berlin Wall (an exhilaration that, I must admit, is somewhat tempered not only by some of the events since then, but by thinking about another prescient Leonard Cohen song, The Future). As I mentioned in the "comments" section of my previous post, I have suspended my normal cynicism long enough to allow myself to feel a new kind of hope for the US – and maybe even for the world.

Oh, but don't worry, Dear Ones. I will be back to snarking in no time. I'm already simmering the ingredients for my next snarky soup. But for the moment, I am, as a friend of mine put it, still "basking in the afterglow."

* Yes, yes, yes, I do see that Obamamania has its cultish aspects, although the same could be said of, say, the recent mania for Sarah Palin (remember her?). But you won't catch me chanting slogans or hanging huge posters with Obama's likeness. Regarding Sarah, I have to agree with Steve Salerno when he wrote that selecting her as a political candidate/role model represented a setback for true feminism. As Steve put it, " It says that if you look right and dress right and wink and smile and have a nice shape--and have shown your ability to pump out babies by the handful--that's really all that matters in a woman/candidate. Very unfortunate."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

"Sail on, sail on, o mighty Ship of State..."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU-RuR-qO4YI'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country, but I can't stand the scene.
And I'm neither left nor right
I'm just staying home tonight,

getting lost in that hopeless little screen...
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay

I'm junk but I'm still holding up
this little wild bouquet

Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

~Leonard Cohen, "Democracy," from The Future (1992) *

Congratulations to US President-Elect Barack Obama.

Kudos to John McCain for a gracious concession speech.
And to commemorate the occasion, here is a song I've loved for years, from a man I consider to be one of the greatest living songwriters in the world. It has been widely played at various times, after various victories. (You can also get to it by clicking on the graphic above.)

PS ~ Another blogger who is also obviously an LC fan had the same idea, as I'm sure countless others have and will...

* One of my favorite CDs of all time.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The ultimate wacko bailout plan?

Today's post, besides being quite long-winded even for me, is a bit of a departure from my normal fare, particularly of late. As the US Presidential race gets down to the wire, and as the buzz continues about a financial crisis that is either (a) potentially the worst thing to happen since the Great Depression or is (b) no big deal, I thought that a little trip back in time might be in order. Accordingly, this post contains some real history and actual facts – not enough to hurt you, but some. (But don't worry; I'll try to get in some snarking anyway.)

* * * * *

It had many of the elements of a New-Wage money-making scheme: the promise of generous compensation for little or no work, the bold vision of a Utopian society and a new era for humankind, the public statements from its creator that could just as well have been nothing more than a bunch of words strung together randomly, for all the sense they made to the average person. (Apparently, however, the obscurantism did not prevent large numbers of folks from hopping aboard the promised gravy train.) There was even a yin-yang symbol that surely would have appealed to today's conspicuously enlightened consumer.

It was called Technocracy, and the only thing missing from the grand marketing plan, at least in those early days, was the Internet.

There's a good reason for that: Technocracy as both an intellectual fad and a mass movement was a spawn not of the Internet Age, but of the Great Depression. Actually it had its roots in the Technical Alliance, a think tank formed at the end of World War I to assess physical economic indicators of the day. That gave way to Technocracy, Inc., which published a home study course, not only to inform citizens about the results of the think tank's studies, but also to lay out a new "scientific social design" that promised a brave new world of abundance for all. Technocrats envisioned a society designed to operate with a minimum expenditure of energy for maximum social gain. Its sophisticated scientific notions were probably a big part of what attracted the forward thinkers of the time, but it became a fad during the Depression for one simple reason: it promised to offer a way out of the dismal economic situation.

Great Scott!
As an intellectual movement, Technocracy centered around Columbia University for a while, but as a mass movement its center was in California. The movement was spearheaded by one man,
Howard Scott (1890-1970), a practicing engineer who didn't actually have an engineering degree, reportedly because his father's death had cut his college education short. Although online diploma mills, that favorite tool of some of today's New-Wage superstars, were still a few generations in the future, this didn't stop Scott from embellishing his education until he apparently got called on it. According to the late journalist and popular-culture historian Paul Sann, writing in his 1967 book, Fads, Follies and Delusions of the American People, Scott at one point claimed he'd attended universities in Europe, had graduated from an engineering college in Berlin, and then had held executive posts in the engineering field in Europe and Canada. "Later, under oath, he admitted that he held no college degrees," according to Sann, who added:

In the mid-Twenties he was operating a little floor-wax plant in Pompton Lakes, new Jersey, and espousing far-out economic theories in the Greenwich Village watering places at night. He told some rather elaborate stories about flying for the British during [World War I] and then serving as an engineer at Boulder Dam and Muscle Shoals, but only the last item stood up. He had indeed been at Muscle Shoals – in a clerical job.

Another source implies that he was an engineer at Muscle Shoals, but not a very good one:

As documented by [William E.] Akin in Technocracy and the American Dream, Scott seems to have had little formal education, and his most notable work as an engineer was at a Muscle Shoals nitrates project during World War I. A postwar government investigation charged him with “gross waste, inefficiency, and shoddy workmanship.”

In any event, Scott was certainly no dummy; he had been a child prodigy who read about and understood evolutionary biology by the time he was four years old. Or maybe that's just another story he told about himself, but it's a pretty good one, as stories go. What seems indisputable is that he was an intelligent guy with some big ideas, and he was able to get a lot of people, including prominent politicians and literary figures, excited about those ideas. The Howard Scott that came into the public eye in the 1930s was, as Paul Sann put it in Fads, Follies and Delusions of the American People:

...tall and taciturn and vaguely mysterious and bearing that most wondrous tonic of all – $20,000 a year for every able-bodied citizen over twenty-five years of age willing to work a soft four hours a day for 165 days of the year until he's forty-five. And then? The most golden of all retirements: the money, like Old Man River, keeps rolling along.

The name of the game was Technocracy, and at those prices you had to be pretty dumb to wait around for the man in the White House to produce his miracles...

Sann's description is perhaps a bit misleading, as in Scott's Utopian scenario, actual money would no longer be used. But perhaps those early promises were framed in terms of money because that's what people understood, and as $20,000.00 back then was the equivalent of well over $300,000.00 now, you can see why it would get people's attention. In any case, Scott knew he had a ready-made market in the Depression-weary masses who were tired of waiting for the government to turn things around. For six bucks a year, you could be a member of Scott's organization and help create that bright and shining future.

Truth be told, Scott wanted to do away with the US government altogether, along with the Constitution and the whole mess. He was quoted as saying that "democratic methods are obsolete," and that "the Constitution and our concepts of social order ought to be wrapped in cellophane and put in the Smithsonian Institution for future generations to look at." He thought of those fine American concepts of liberty and justice as "empty baubles of the social epoch of yesterday." Further, he had no love for politicians, stating, "We could take any home of defectives, pick their inmates' names from a hat and so select our House and Senate, and they couldn't do worse than we're doing now." (Okay, I realize that many folks today might agree with that last part, notwithstanding the fact that it's no longer politically correct to refer to special-needs people as "defectives," but as for the rest...well, I don't know about you, but I'm kind of partial to the Constitution, old-fashioned gal that I am.)

Scott and company had in mind something far superior to the quaint conceits of the Founding Fathers of the United States: a society based not on noble principles such as freedom and truth, but on rigorous application of engineering principles. This ideal society would be run not by politicians or community leaders or even by the clergy, but by engineers, scientists, and technologists. Rather than the United States, Technocrats envisioned something called the Technate State of North America, which merged the US and the rest of North America, as well as Central America, the West Indies, and Bermuda. (Actually the TSNA included Hawaii as well, which wasn't a state at the time; at least it could be said that the Technocrats got their wish about that part in 1959.) Regarding the TSNA's interaction with the rest of the world, that huge non-Technate chunk still operating on antiquated economic and political systems, the Technocrats were a bit more cloudy about that, although Scott seemed to be a dedicated isolationist, bent on creating a Technate that was impervious to "alien cultural intrusions," and, presumably, had no need for trade with the backwards aliens.

Equality for all (just don't ask too many questions)
Although disclaiming anything so mushy as altruistic motives, Scott and other advocates of Technocracy contended that their way offered the only real antidote to inequality and injustice. (Technocrats today still make this claim.) Under Technocracy, everyone would be equal, at least on a material level, and no one would lack for basic necessities. Since in the Technocratic view modern technology was (and is) capable of overcoming the problem of
scarcity, the Technate design would include such post-scarcity perks as free housing, transportation, recreation, education, and consumer products as a right of citizenship.

If that sounds kind of like socialism, it's not, as Technocrats will hasten to explain, because socialism and communism, and for that matter capitalism, are based on market economics and the price system, whereas Technocracy proposes a non-market economy based on a non-monetary system called "Energy Accounting." (And no, we're not talking about the nebulous "energies" that so many New-Wagers are constantly nattering about.) The theory went that the Technocrats could determine a product's value by the amount of energy consumed in production, and could hence create a monetary system based on "energy certificates" that would be good for a given amount of consumption.

The Social Security Online site, in its overview of various economic reform movements of the past, explains that technocracy was neither a political nor an economic system:

Technocracy held that all politics and all economic arrangements based on the "Price System" (i.e., based on traditional economic theory) were antiquated and that the only hope of building a successful modern world was to let engineers and other technology experts run the country on engineering principles. Technocracy's rallying cry was "production for use," which was meant as a contrast to production for profit in the capitalist system. Production for use became a slogan for many of the radical-left movements of the era. Upton Sinclair, among others, affirmed his belief in "production for use" and the Technocrats briefly made common cause with Sinclair, and even Huey Long, in California. But the Technocrats were not of the political left, as they held every political and economic system, from the left to the right, to be unsound.

As for that yin-yang symbol, Technocrats called it the "Monad." It was chosen because it symbolized the balance between distribution and consumption, an integral part of the social program designed by Technocracy.

Though they didn't think of themselves as a political party, that didn't stop Howard Scott and friends from some rather unsettling talk about "taking over," as this consummately run society could only be created and maintained by "an elite of engineers and scientists." In January of 1933, according to Paul Sann's account in the book cited above, Scott spoke of his big plans to an audience of 400 bankers, industrialists, artists and economists who had gathered at New York's swanky Hotel Pierre to honor him. He said that within the next eighteen months he expected to have no less than 20 million adherents, which, he said, would be more than enough to "sweep out Washington and let the technicians get going," as Sann put it. Scott also made this statement in 1935:

If our numbers continue at the present rate of increase we shall not be a minority when we take over. It looks as if we shall have sufficient numbers by 1940 to carry out our plans, perhaps by popular mandate.

"Perhaps by popular mandate?" Hmmm....

Yet Scott himself claimed he had no ambitions, political or otherwise; he merely wanted to whip society into shape and get all Americans that promised $20,000.00 per year. He later joked that the only job he wanted was "custodian of the bears in Yellowstone Park. The bears hibernate in winter and are tourist-fed the rest of the year." Disclaimers notwithstanding, he apparently had an ego that was every bit as imposing as his physical presence. The late Langdon W. Post, who later became a federal public housing administrator in California, was briefly associated with Scott at Columbia University. Post remembered Scott as "an egotist who thought of himself as a kind of Messiah come to earth in the midst of a deep Depression with orders to remodel a decadent and demoralized economic and political system." He said Scott had a phenomenal memory and a genius for explaining complex principles, but he alienated everyone around him with his high-handed methods. According to Sann, Post said, "He was determined to run the whole show himself, but he really had very little idea what the show should be."

He also didn't seem to think transparency was all that important. This was evident even back in the days before Technocracy became a mass fad. In a 1921 interview with Scott, Charles H. Wood, associate editor of the New York World, asked him, "And suppose you draw up a seemingly workable plan. What are you going to do with public opinion?"

To which Scott replied, "It is all a technical matter. It makes not the slightest difference whether the public knows about it or not. The steam engine didn't need a press agent. The Einstein Theory doesn't require any special legislative enactment. If the only people who can bring order to our present industrial chaos find out exactly how to do the job, we needn't worry about the next step."

More than fifteen years later, when Technocracy had undergone considerable growing pains, Scott announced that Technocracy's ranks had skyrocketed "by 461 percent in the past year alone." As Sann wrote, "The natural question was, 461 percent of what? And the answer [from Scott], as ever, was, 'We have never told and we never will.'"

Scott apparently didn't even find it all that necessary to explain exactly what Technocracy was, at least not in a way that the average person could understand it.

The word "technocracy," as representative of a new body of thought, means governance by science – social control through the power of technique... Technocracy is a new approach to social phenomena. As such, a governance by science is one which would proceed from a methodology of determination and which would operate under a balanced load control of all function sequences.

Did you get that? Good, maybe you can 'splain it to me. On second thought, never mind.

Damn the critics; full speed ahead!
While many of the literati, intellectuals and even a few politicians became advocates of Technocracy, there were, not surprisingly, critics, many of whom had honest questions about just exactly how the Technocratic Utopia was supposed to be created and sustained. Scott's attitude, according to Sann, could be summed up thusly: "We don't have to answer our critics. Time will tell who is correct." But the critics continued to hammer away at Scott and his vision. Political columnist, author, and magazine publisher
Walter Lippmann, in a piece that could have just as easily been written about some of today's mystical/scientific "experts," wrote:

The prestige of science, the mystification of scientific jargon, the prediction of disaster, and the promise of salvation have proved to be an ideal combination to impress a people who are disillusioned, frightened, and eager for guidance. It is a heartless pretense...It is a vast inflation and pyramiding of generalizations and theories on a small base of substantial truth...the prophesies and promises...are scientific hocus pocus.

The delusion of grandeur which causes him (Scott) to look upon himself as the innovator of a new era in human thought and to say that "all philosophic approaches to social phenomena, from Plato to – and including – Marx, must functionally be avoided as intellectual expressions of dementia praecox" should not impress anyone. That is nothing but the pretentious ignorance of a crank.

Hmmm.... "pretentious ignorance"... kind of reminds me of some of those quantum-physics "experts" in the New-Wage industry. (Hey, I promised snarking, and by golly, I deliver.)

Technocracy had a bit of a setback when the Technocrats were ousted from Columbia University in 1933; according to Sann's account, Scott was told by Columbia's president, Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, never to set foot on campus again. Several other followers also left the Technocratic fold, and for a time it appeared that Technocracy's heyday was over. Scott was "dismayed but defiant," according to Sann. He withdrew from public life for a short time, confining himself mostly to a friend's Manhattan apartment. He always said that Technocracy was a labor of love for him and that in truth he had no money. "But the work will go on," he said, and it did. Scott claimed large membership gains from a tour he made through the western United States in 1934.

Here's where it gets kind of creepy. Paul Sann writes:

By then his Youth Brigade had flowered, complete with a military salute, and some of the grown-ups were in uniform. The model technocrat wore a double-breasted gray suit, in gabardine serge, gray hat, gray shirt, gray socks, navy blue tie and matching handkerchief, and plain-toed cordovan shoes of reddish horsehide. (Underwear was optional.) The outfit cost twenty-five dollars and you had to get permission from your local [Technocratic] board of governors to wear it. The rule was that once you draped yourself in that Howard Scott gray you had to stay in it. And if you happened to be overweight you had another kind of problem. Scott, always lean himself, kept you in civies because he felt that fat technocrats didn't look good in double-breasted suits. The women weren't neglected, by the way; for twenty-two dollars they could hide their charms in drab single-breasted gray suits with blouses of gray or blue.

Scott insisted this was not a military uniform: "It is not a uniform for parading. It is a uniform for living and working." That's unsettling enough, but even more unsettling is Scott's reply when asked whether he thought Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, was for all practical purposes setting up a kind of technocracy in Italy. Il Duce was, after all, famous for "making the trains run on time" (or at least that's what people widely believed, and still do to this day). To the question about Mussolini, Scott responded:

Mussolini has demonstrated his capacity for initiative and leadership. His position in the vanguard of European social action places him as probably the only figure in the Western European political world who has both the vision and the dynamic will to initiate the first national move away from the old traditional structures in the management of human affairs.

Kind of makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, doesn't it?

As World War II heated up and the United States became involved, Scott continued to push his agenda. In the spring of 1942, no longer the isolationist but now keenly interested in what was going on in Europe, he took out full-page ads in daily newspapers across the nation, urging FDR to name him his "Director General of Defense." Scott apparently had a plan for certain victory, as bold as his blueprint for a perfect society. He also bought time on nearly a hundred radio stations, published several slick magazines and pamphlets, and even set up a "continental headquarters" in a Manhattan skyscraper. By that time, the uniforms were not only much more in evidence, but Technocracy had a motorcycle corps, "disaster squads," and a fleet of gray sedans. It had branches in San Diego, San Francisco, Detroit, Phoenix and numerous other cities. Scott was now called "The Chief," and when asked how he got that title, he replied, "I got here first."

Despite his implied admiration for the world's most famous Fascist, Scott did have an issue with Hitler and the Nazis. He said Technocracy's opposition to the Nazis was "not merely on the basis of ideology, but because Germany is built largely on human toil and ours is a power and extraneous energy society."

It seemed, though, that ideology didn't enter into it at all for Scott. Regarding the millions of Jews and others who were being systematically eradicated by the Nazis, that wasn't even an issue for The Chief, who stated, "Technocrats are not filled with any love of humanity or influenced by any ethical idea, but are primarily concerned with function."

I suppose there's no better evidence than this statement that the the well-oiled machine Scott envisioned was just that: a machine. With all of its parts working perfectly and according to plan, there was no actual need for a warm beating heart or a functioning soul. Or a conscience, for that matter.

The big "yeah-but..."
It's not that matters of the heart and soul had no place in the Technocratic vision. With all of the bothersome problems of survival and sustenance finally taken care of through the application of sound engineering principles, there would presumably be ample time and opportunity for creative pursuits and pleasures. Technocracy at least seemed to recognize that humans are, after all, creative beings.

But from where I sit, there were other aspects of human nature that the Technocrats apparently didn't take into consideration.

For example, there's that primal need to own stuff, a need that seems to have grown more powerful in the decades since the Great Depression, and, thanks to influences such as The Secret, has attained a pseudospiritual cachet in today's New-Wage consumer paradise. Under the Technocratic plan, alas, individuals would own nothing beyond their own immediate personal belongings and apparel. They couldn't buy enormous mansions to advertise their elevated status to the world, for living spaces would be huge multi-story, multi-use affairs, partitioned off as needed for individuals or families, and encompassing retail and office space. Perhaps even worse, people....gasp...couldn't own a stable of overpriced cars, or even one car; they would merely "pay" for "energy units" for the use of transportation on a time-distance basis.

Something tells me that this kind of stuff wouldn't set well at all with many of today's hustledorks or their fawning followers. To tell the truth, this kind of stuff wouldn't set too well with most of us.

Technocracy, in short, fails to take into account that all-too-human desire to have more, more, MORE. It also seemingly neglects to consider the human need to be "superior" in some way to one's fellows.

There are numerous other arguments in opposition to Technocracy and its system of "energy accounting." Some contend that under such a system, people would not work because the money incentive would be lost. Technocrats contend that "work" as we know it wouldn't be necessary under their system. Others say that people need hierarchies, so Technocracy's basically structureless society just wouldn't be feasible. There's even the argument that Technocracy would create too much equality (see that bit above about the need to feel "superior"). And some point out that no matter how efficiently Technocracy distributes resources, some resources are finite, and furthermore, there will always be scarcity. Technocrats argue that without the profit motive people would be more motivated to protect resources for our future survival. And so on. In a nutshell, Technocracy is bursting at the seams with ideas that could make even the most non-New-Wagey capitalist's head explode.

Whatever you might think of Howard Scott and his ideas, however, the issues touched on above are important ones and aren't going to go away any time soon. At the very least, Technocrats then and now have made a serious attempt to address them.

Whatever happened to Howard Scott?
World War II ended with an Allied victory, which occurred despite FDR's refusal to recognize the genius and military acumen of Howard Scott by naming him Director General of Defense. The US entered into an era of unprecedented prosperity, and Technocracy pretty much fell by the wayside. In 1948, a former assistant director of Technocracy, Inc. brought suit against Scott in Manhattan Supreme Court, accusing him of pocketing "excessive compensation in the form of an expense account without proper authorization." According to the former Technocrat, Albert W. Atwater, the organization had a mere 8,900 dues-paying members at the time, but Scott had made no financial reports on its annual income. It seemed that Scott's claims of memberships in the millions were hugely exaggerated. Where the money had come from for the big media blitz in 1942 was anyone's guess.

Of course, Scott wasn't the first and would be far from the last faddish "visionary" to be a little dodgy about money matters.

"After a while," concluded Paul Sann, "it didn't matter. Technocracy, perhaps the most ominous of all our fads, receded into history without a formal burial."

Technocracy may have receded, but make no mistake about it: it is still alive and well and in no apparent danger of being buried any time soon. It still has its passionate advocates in North America, Europe and other parts of the world, and many look upon Howard Scott as a hero and a man ahead of his time. Though he died in 1970, his ideas live on.

I realize that in this lengthy post I've quoted rather extensively from Paul Sann's work, which is not readily available, and I further realize that many apologists for Technocracy and Howard Scott would argue, with some justification, that neither Sann nor I have done justice to the depth and breadth of Scott's vision. Indeed, I have not even scratched the surface of all of the material available on Technocracy, and certainly have done nothing to explain how a Technocratic state would theoretically be created and sustained. To tell the truth, I barely understand it myself. So I leave you to follow the various links I've provided above and below, or do some Googling of your own, and draw your own conclusions.

I will say this, though: From the perspective of today's New-Wage hucksters, it's really too bad that Technocracy still exists as a viable organization, with proprietary copyrighted material. Otherwise, it probably would become yet one more long-hidden, recently rediscovered "ancient secret" for rapacious Internet capitalists to repackage and sell to a gullible public. (I have a very strong feeling that they would find some way to exempt themselves from that no-car-ownership stipulation.)

As for the larger lessons in the tale of Howard Scott and Technocracy, there are several, I'm sure, but I'll leave that up to you to determine for yourself, if you're so inclined. In any case, I wish you happy Googling. Just don't get so distracted that you forget to go out and vote on Tuesday (well, provided you're a US citizen and all that).

Some resources...

PS ~ According to the Social Security site linked to above, the classic 1941 Frank Capra film Meet John Doe, staring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, depicts the Depression-era period of mass movements through the story of a fictional "John Doe" who represents an amalgam of many of the ideas of various movements, including Technocracy. (Apparently it's nearly impossible to find a decent-quality reproduction of this movie, at least on Amazon.)

PPS ~ Being in a popular-history state of mind lately, I recently picked up my old book club edition copy of the late William Manchester's fine work, The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America 1932-1972. Although there's not a peep about Howard Scott and Technocracy in all of its 1,400-plus pages, there is some pretty eye-opening stuff about what was going on in America during the Great Depression. Definitely worth reading.

PPPS ~ My pal HHH recently pointed out a couple of relevant items to me: (1) The conspiracy-porn flick that's making the rounds on the Net now, Zeitgeist: Addendum, will seem strangely familiar to anyone who knows about Technocracy (and vice versa); and (2) M. King Hubbert, originator of the peak oil theory, was a Technocracy Inc. co-founder with Howard Scott.

(I wonder what my late father, who was a geophysicist with Exxon, would have thought about today's peak oil/scarcity hysteria. I would have asked him what he thought about the peak oil theory in general, had I known of its existence when he was alive...)

Previous "history lessons" on my Whirled (inspired in part by the aforementioned Paul Sann):

  • Everything old is new again: Emile CouĂ© and his twelve-word tonic were once all the rage with earnest self-improvers.
  • Orgone conclusions: Wilhelm had the Reich stuff to get himself in a whole heap of trouble with the US government.