Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Paradox of the Motorcycle Club

Sonny Barger, notorious founder of the Oakland, CA chapter of the Hells Angels, and the face of the Hells Angels for many years, wrote a book entitled, Freedom. I read it. Basically, the book is almost a free-flowing ramble of Sonny's thoughts on just about everything from politics to living with his Old Lady, to Patriotism onto issues about law enforcement, all delivered through the prism of the motorcycle club, the MC.  If you want to know what makes Sonny tick, read the book.  I would love to sit with the guy over a beer and listen to his many stories.  But I think Sonny's position that being a member of an MC is synonymous with being free is totally wrong.

Before I address the issue of the paradox of Freedom and the MC, let me make it clear that from my limited experience (never having been a member of an MC), the greatest benefit of actually being a member of an MC is probably that of brotherhood. Sonny's book extensively addresses this benefit. And for most that benefit in itself may make being a member of an MC worth it.

The underlying theme of Barger's book is freedom, as the title implies, and again and again Sonny refers to this "idea" as one of the underpinnings of the MC.  And while I do believe that ALL bikers believe that riding is an expression of freedom (see my previous post on Freedom), and while I cannot disagree with most of his thoughts on freedom, I do disagree with him that the Motorcycle Club is a true expression and the epitome of freedom.  Frankly, I think it is quite the opposite.

Though Sonny wrote that his way of life, and by inference all bikers, "requires a never-ending devotion to the "idea of" and the "practice of" freedom,"  his own words spelling out the prerequisite for a MC's success belies this ideal.  "A group only works if there is an established set of rules that all involved pledge to and maintain.  When you are a member of an organization, life isn't about you."

Therein lies the rub for me with the MC's.  Rules.  In fact, most MC's have extensive written rules of order, charters, constitutions, protocols for who rides where, when, and how.  Just like most any organization, rules are required to maintain order within its ranks.  The undeniable implication of rules is the loss of individual freedom. 

Clearly, there are innumerable benefits to being a member of an MC, but the loss of freedom is one condition that I cannot accept.  In the choice of brotherhood vs freedom, I choose freedom.  Consequently, I am a Lone Wolf and not a member of an MC.

What do you think?

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