A few days ago, I was listening to a CBC television newscast showcasing a young Quebec filmmaker by the name of Xavier Dolan. This admittedly young, brash, yet gifted filmmaker, has been dubbed The Québécois L’Enfant Terrible. After all, where does a fresh-faced 25-year-old, get off winning the prestigious Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his just released film, Mommy? Decades-old, entrenched filmmakers of his genre, have continually looked down their noses at such young up and coming unorthodox filmmakers. Breaking stereotypes, and shattering moulds, seems to be the new normal; as far as new, talented Quebec filmmakers are concerned anyway.
So what does this have to do with bikers? Well, in my opinion, everything.
A stereotype, once dissected and laid bare, usually verifies its own definition. A descriptive aberration of the oversimplification of a partial truth. The unfortunate and widely held mystique of the “biker” promotes the image of a ‘rebel without a cause’; individuals with apparent dysfunctional, untrustworthy attitudes, borne out of seemingly rebellious natures, replete with a radical death wish predisposition. While there are unsavoury, immature individuals who utilize motorcycles, that does not necessarily translate into all participants of this two-wheeled genre being poster children for the Hells Angels. An unfortunate side effect of all this is that the culture becomes inundated with misinterpretation and preconceived notions from within and without.
These attitudes are also pervasive within the subculture itself. If you ride a cruiser you may not necessarily look on with favour, those who do not ride that type of motorcycle. Or if you do not subscribe to the “Sons of Anarchy” mentality, even in pretense (which has its own inherent and dangerous traps) then you are catalogued and classified as an outsider; or a biker ‘wannabe’. If you missed the irony in that last statement, that would be akin to you not seeing a screaming naked person running in circles around you as you tried to order coffee in a Tim Hortons check out line. Just saying :). I know of which I speak, because I have been on the receiving end of that kind of short-sighted thinking several times over.
Let’s be honest, we all unfortunately maintain some level of prejudice or bias based upon our preconceived notions of how things should or should not be, along with our likes and dislikes. These preconceptions have come about through our upbringing, our environment, and from things that have made an impact on us, whether for good or for ill. What we do about that type of thinking and how we comport ourselves (as individuals first; bikers second) moving forward, is the question we should be asking ourselves.
With that said, I have a confession to make.
When dealing with idiotic twits (are there any other kinds?), there have been times when I have said to myself, why bother? Why wrestle with those whose thought processes are intractable, narrow-minded, or self-serving? Why acknowledge them? Why give them the time of day? Then I am reminded that I too am a part of this whole global culture. I make up a part of the human race. No matter what or how I think, I cannot extract myself from the people of this planet. Yes, I will disagree with some of their ideas, or ways of doing things, but I am a part of the whole. That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact I believe it has great intrinsic value. It means I not only have the opportunity, but the right to offer something of value back to the community. Why should I be robbed of the opportunity to promote something good or worthwhile, because of someone else’s insecurities?
The Canadian Motorcycle Cruisers Social Riding Club, effectively stretches between Canada’s east and west coasts. It consists of individuals in different provinces and cities with different types of motorcycles from different walks of life with different ways of thinking. Some look as if they eat nails for breakfast and dress the part accordingly, but in truth are the most gentle, kind, grandparents, doctors, teachers, pharmacists, mechanics, electricians among others, and yes, even unemployed, you could ever meet. While some look to have just stepped off the covers of GQ or Cosmopolitan magazines, but may not seem immediately warm and friendly. The point is if you judge a book by its cover, you risk losing the opportunity of discovering the value of the content within. The CMC has an underlying and refreshingly realistic mandate; you may not be able to make friends with everyone, but at a minimum show respect to everyone and hopefully you should expect the same in return. Essentially we are a microcosm of humanity who just happen to have a thing for motorcycles.
My association with the CMC began in July 2008 and still continues in the original small chapter, in a small town, in a rural county in Southwest Ontario. I am also one of the maintainers and official coordinator of our national online forum, so I’ve had some time to witness the evolution of our riding club as it has progressed over the years I have been a part of it. Attitudes change, people come and go and yes, there been times when I thought about not being a part of CMC. The encouraging thing is that you’re allowed to think that way. You’re not mandated to be here permanently. You’re free to come and go. If it is not enjoyable anymore you are not constrained to stay. You prioritize what is of value for you. Your family comes first. Your health comes first. Your job comes first. Your lifestyle comes first.
Something that was of great assistance in helping me in recent weeks when I was feeling a bit disillusioned about my role or value in CMC (only as far as I was concerned), was when I met George. George is one of the friendliest, most unassuming, jovial, characters you will ever meet. George unfortunately had to have one of his legs amputated a few years ago, but that is not stopped him from participating in rides and meet ups as a new member in our local chapter. George’s best friend and confidant, also joined our chapter recently and the two are inseparable. You see George rides in his friend’s sidecar which his friend built just for him.
Also George happens to be an English Bulldog. Seriously.
I cannot quite put my finger on it but, Sir George and his friend/master have added something unique and special to our meetings and rides. Yes he is quite the ‘Babe Magnet’, (George that is) but beyond that both of them have brought about a renewed sense of cohesiveness to our small chapter. They as well as recent new members to our chapter, have demolished myths and reestablished a unique sense of camaraderie among us.
The established members of our chapter have really come to appreciate the new member influx and it’s little things like this that help when we need to reevaluate our own lives, not just as bikers, but individuals who have to face life with it’s inherent struggles on a daily basis.
We may ride motorcycles and we may even look as if we just stepped off of some 14th-century Viking ship with body parts studded with metal, or wear strange helmets reminiscent of some post apocalyptic era, but beneath the leather and iron-mongering, we all have dreams and desires for our lives just like anyone else.
Image Source: BitterKittens.com