Technocracy

My Dad used to enjoy quoting Groucho Marx, saying “I wouldn’t belong to any club that would have me as a member”.

As a kid, I didn’t really understand what he was talking about, except I guess I figured that Dad didn’t like groups (and other people) very much.

I never really understood how a shared belief or philosophy could bring people together. Religion and church remained a mysterious spectator sport to me, and I guess this was a reflection of my Dad’s pride and cynical individualism, imbued in me by example and osmosis.

However, there was religious belief in each of my Mum’s and Dad’s families. Dad’s Aunt Molly, who lived across the street from us, was a faithful Christian who attended church regularly and sang in her church choir. She was quiet and gentle about her faith, like most of the Loves whom I would meet or hear about. Like politics, sex, and money, religion seemed to be a topic to be avoided in discussion.

On my Mum’s side, it was a somewhat different story: her Aunt Florence became born-again in adulthood and was vocally devout in her evangelism. Both of Florence’s daughters, my Mum’s cousins, were similarly vocal. Watching them, it seemed to me as if religious belief was the whole opinion and a major point of pride – like an achievement to be shared with others.

Being my father’s son, I followed Dad’s lead and regarded religious belief with skepticism. Often to me, the topic seemed to bring with it the twin spectres of judgement and indoctrination. My immediate family were not church-going folk, and I detested the concepts of sin and eternal damnation, and in my tweens I had developed a sensitivity to when an adult’s actions didn’t match their professed ideals.


A block down Kingsway from our motel was the Technocracy temple. It was a relatively plain-looking building, with a large yin-yang sign out front. It was probably the symbol that caught my attention most of all. It seemed mysterious and universal – like a word from a language I had never seen before.

The Technocracy clubhouse for the Vancouver chapter, located on Kingsway, just a block or so from where we lived. (Image from technocracy.ca. Used without permission.)

Looking back at it now, it is a very strange sight, but not totally out-of-place on a busy street that was packed with large lit signs promoting other ideas, like food, lodging, furniture, or used cars. In fact, a few kilometers west, a Christian church had a large sign that said “Jesus Saves” in pink and blue neon. On Kingsway, if belief systems wanted to get your attention, flashy signs were a must-have. Compared to the neon for Jesus, Technocracy’s sign was tame and simple.

Where did Technocracy come from?

Technocracy started in the US in the 1930s, and gained attention in Canada not long after. It was a futuristic, utopian movement that appealed to the cynicism created by economic and political collapses of the Great Depression.

I always wondered what went on inside the Technocrats Temple. I had vague images I’d gotten from watching TV: about the FreeMasons and their secret society of ancient rights and sacred symbols. There was probably a secret handshake for Technocrats too.

One of my dad’s brothers, my Uncle Charles, was a 32nd order Shriner. Apparently, to get higher than that one must do a great service to one’s country, or be a King or something. Other than driving around in tiny cars in parades, I had no idea what being a Shriner entailed. (Whenever my Uncle Charles was in Vancouver for a Shriners convention, he looked very sharp in his bright red blazer and Fez. Very sharp indeed.)

This sense of brotherhood and belongingness contrasted with my Dad’s stubborn sense of individualism. He was probably like a lone wolf sneering at the sheep. That Groucho quote (slightly misused from Groucho’s original intention) was close to Dad’s true nature. He didn’t do groups.

My Dad wasn’t anti-religion or athiestic as far as I could tell. He would just say “We’re Agnostic” and then, seeing my blank stare, sort of stumble through a half-assed explanation of the word.  He never actually said that he didnt believe in god, but to me his feet seemed firmly planted in the realms of science and technology, and in a rational, materialistic worldview. I think my  Dad was really a frustrated intellect – a bright layman light without much outlet. He had deep thoughts, and nobody to share them with.

The Technocracy temple became a Buddhist temple around twenty years ago. Back in the 1970s, it was weird to have the Technocracy Temple nearby, but maybe their yin-yang symbol was the most appropriate icon of the interdependence of the spiritualism and materialism. Even though the two sides fight for attention over each other, they really need each other.

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The memoir and family history of E. John Love