Thursday, August 2, 2012

The "True" Biker?

                                                The “True Biker”: Fact or Fantasy?

 It’s been too long since I updated this blog but it’s past time that I did so.  Personal identity is a subject that I often return to in my thoughts and so I’ll ramble along that path once again.. Bear with me as I return to this subject once more.

When we are children and just beginning to form our own identity we draw from personal experience. This is true for every one. As we experience different inputs from family, friends and other sources we tend to “cherry pick” influences which will set a template for the rest of our lives. Some of the influences are determined by outside sources, some by family and friends (both good and bad) and there are those who are affected by mental or physical conditions that steer them towards predispositions which might transgress the boundaries of  “proper behavior” and legal restrictions. I’ll leave those last two categories for those better qualified to assess them and deal primarily with the other, less convolute, items. Whatever the reasons the learned psychologists have it’s generally accepted that by the age of 6 years people in general are imprinted with most of the behavioral characteristics which they will use the rest of their lives in one form or another. These guidelines will be modified or adapted to deal with virtually all the situations they encounter whatever those situations were in some way or form.

For those of us who grew up pre-internet: we dealt with real or perceived as real situations upon which we based our personal template. Experience tempered those situations into a form which allowed us to function in daily life in a slightly more or sometimes slightly less functional manner but overall allowed us to live generally functional lives. As children, we were exposed to fantastical influences which we emulated by playing at being knights in armor, princesses, kings, dragon slayers, explorers, soldiers and other role models. For those of my age, our heroes were somewhat affected by television but as a general rule the bad guys wore black hats and the good guys wore white hats and the good guys always won.

While we knew that it wasn’t always so, it was still a good role model. Our nation had just come out of a horrific war but even so, we had defeated the enemy, emerged as the heroes and forestalled world domination by the bad guys. Everything was going to be better.

By the time we were grown enough to enter the workplace life had made a lot of changes. More people were available to fill the available jobs but the workplace had begun to take over our lives. There was less time to spend with family and the old model of how things should be was aging poorly. Women entered the workplace and as a result the children had less family contact as both parents worked 40 hour weeks leaving only the weekends open for family activities. Another major change that happened was that in the absence of family activities more and more time was spent by the children in front of the television which rapidly changed its programming towards entertaining children. Currently, television is primarily aimed at and age level of around age 7 or younger. Two generations, now starting on 3, were raised in front of the television.

The next evolution is that children are being raised in front of a computer screen and the internet is a major baby sitter for impressionable children. Family entertainment and family activities often revolve around watching sports events on television, watching movies on television and sitting for hours in front of a computer screen surfing the internet without the need for actual human involvement past what is necessary to push keys on the keyboard or change channels on the television.  These activities allow anonymous interactions. In the comfort of their own home people can now engage in behavior that would absolutely not allowed in public! Want to watch pornography while sitting in dishabille on the couch? Do it! Scream obscenities at sports figures? Do it! Bully others and castigate them with threats! Do it! After all, those being abused will never know who did it, until someone dies and maybe not even then.

So how does this boring history tie into the subject of this essay? In very simple terms, both television and the internet have become completely anonymous fantasy environments! When someone dies on television they simply get up and appear later on another show.  When something is presented on the internet the viewer is safely hidden behind spurious credentials that may or may not be able to be tracked by those with special training in computer science.

In lieu of actual role models more and more people are using internet memes as role models! These memes are used to tell people who they are, what they like, what they should be, what the stars say about you, what your tarot cards are saying and virtually every other thing that can possibly happen or affect YOU!

In short; Life, not only based on fantasy but encouraging people to actually believe it and espouse it regardless of whether or not the reality matches the fantasy!  What’s more, people do so! Privacy is no longer a necessity. People expose their most intimate lusts, desires, family situations and issues to literally thousands of other participants with access to the internet with little or no regard to whether or not this information is appropriate to share with others. But, it’s okay because those others aren’t “actually” there with them. They remain anonymous.

One internet meme concerns motorcycling and identifies itself as the “Biker’s Code”. It’s a collection of trite, poetic, and sometimes completely erroneous little bits of information defining what motorcyclists should be or do to be a “Real” Biker or “True” Biker. Most of the things a rider needs to be doing while on the road seem to be less important to being a “True” biker than doing important things like nodding or waving to every other bike, scooter one passes going in any direction!

Riders who are watching the road, traffic and immediate environment and fail to wave, nod, dance silly dances or wear approved gear apparently don’t make the cut! Riders who don’t stop to offer help when another rider stops on the road to water the grass or have a smoke don’t make the cut. Riders who gear up properly and have the misfortune to chose gear that matches their bike are derided as being any of a long list of epithets that indicate they’re not “true” or “real” bikers and the Lord help those who drove their car instead of their bike because the weather had turned inclement! Showing regard for one’s own life in favor of others might contra-indicate that a rider is a ‘true” biker. Anyone not attempting to do the “ton” (100mph) even if their bike is totally incapable of doing so, often at risk of life and limb both to themselves and others loses face with the Biker’s Code clique. The list is long and exhausting but the problem is that people are people rather than being a rider first and dedicating their life to a fantasy lifestyle dictated by an internet meme!

I don’t make the cut either. I drive a motorcycle with a sidecar attached thereby being disqualified by virtue of having 3 wheels. Those who ride trikes also are disqualified even if they do so for very sound reasons. There are a few hybrids on the road such as the “Stallion”, a very nice 3 wheeled vehicle which unfortunately has a steering wheel like a car and an automatic transmission. There are 3 wheeled vehicles that have 2 wheels up front and one rear. They’re out. The Ace Cycle Car costs near $50K, is capable of over 100mph and offers unique luxury. It’s powered by a clone of the Harley engine but it has 3 wheels. Morgan once offered a 3 wheeler similar to the Ace Cycle Car but which was discontinued quite some years back.  “Boston Blackie” (television detective of years back) drove a Morgan 3 wheeler. Morgan 3 wheelers still participate in vintage races in the UK but the Biker’s Code followers lump them in with the rest of us misfits. In fact, it seems as though anyone who doesn’t ride a fire-breathing, over-powered 2 wheeler with little regard for safety, common sense and self preservation probably doesn’t qualify as being a “real” biker.  Those who ride scooters, mo-peds and various types of streamlined, full bodied 2 or 3 wheeled vehicles need not even apply.

I live in Dallas, Texas, USA and the Texas Department of Public Safety says my rig is a motorcycle. Their minds are made up and it’s useless to argue with them about the finer distinctions. In the UK, however, a person can operate a 3 wheeled vehicle on a auto license. The regulations differ even in other states of the US. Some say yes and some say no. In Texas, one has to have a motorcycle endorsement and the endorsement can only be gained by taking and passing the test on a 2 wheeled vehicle. Once the endorsement is gained Texas doesn’t care if a person straps training wheels on the bike. It’s still a motorcycle! I, for one, wouldn’t approach a 6’plus, hairy, badass rider on a scooter and even dare to insinuate that he or she wasn’t a “real” biker. I need my health and prefer to keep all my teeth!

Instead of  basing my identity on an internet meme I’ll continue to stay mostly within reasonable speed limits, wear protective gear appropriate to the job at hand, watch the traffic and the environment around me and keep my hands on the bars, be insured against misfortune, be properly inspected and licensed and maintain my rig in good mechanical condition. I’d much rather to remain alive and unharmed while riding than be a “True” biker. My life is much more important than internet memes.

Give up anonymity, forget about internet memes and ride safely! Your life depends on the “real” or “true” WORLD far more than the internet!

Ride safe out there, kids, because your life. far more than your image, depends on it!