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by Genghis

Photo by Genghis

Snow had just joined my martial arts school. We were on the dojo floor at the Educational Alliance building, on East Broadway in the Lower Beast Side of New York City, where I ran my classes. This was before the formality of my bowing the class in. After the bow-in, casual conversation comes to a stop. Everything not related to the learning of combat technique, is not allowed. Prior to bowing-in however, was an okay time to bring up extraneous subjects. Snow said, "Would you ever be without a Harley? How about having another type of bike instead?" I replied, "Nope. I will always have a Harley, no matter what the circumstances. I would never own anything else." To that, David said, "So, you're a purist?" David made that sound like a question, but it was understood to be rhetorical. There was no question in either of our minds, that I would never ride any motorcycle, that wasn't of the Orange & Black persuasion. Period.

Absolutism, or "purism" as Snow referred to it as it relates to Harley only ownership, takes commitment. Most principled stands require commitment, sometimes at the expense of expendiency, and at times, at the expense of of practicality. What do I mean by bowing to either expediency or practicality? Here's a real-world example, of the type of compromise that I would consider to be an expedient or practical cop out. You're in a tight financial squeeze, you've sold your Harley to pay the rent. You can't afford at that given point in time, to buy another Harley. You buy a cheap Kawasaki, instead of saving for that righteous Harley. This, is copping out. Congratulations, you've just as an alleged old school biker, betrayed the trust of the biker subculture. Nobody from the Biker Subculture Correctness Police will arrest you. Other bikers, outraged at your infidelity to the Harley-Davidson icon, won't file civil lawsuits against you. But, you will be known, at least by old school standards, as a Judas. This goes beyond just compromising for financial reasons. Say there are extenuating circumstances, that require a motor vehicle for getting to work. You don't have to resort to buying a Kawasuxit for that. You could buy a $1,000 beater car as a stopgap measure, instead of climbing aboard a Yamawatsis. There is the matter of principle here. The only motorcycle I would ride, is a Harley.

I recently picked up a well-known biker subculture magazine off the racks, and was shocked, shocked, at the numbers oif Hondas and Kawakaskis shown throughout the issue. More shocking than the sheer numbers of Nipponese cycles, was the implicit approval of such motorcycles, by the editorial staff. Beyond the tacit approval of the ridership of these bikes as evidenced by the voluminous featuring of 'em, was the underlying encouragement of owning Hondas, Kawasakis, Suzukis and the like, by the conspicuous absence of disparaging commentary about the unworthiness of these bikes. Disposable. Soulless. Planned obsolescent appliances. Toasters on wheels, you know the laundry list. None of these truths appear in this magazine that I picked up. This was a far cry, from the days of Jap Junque in Iron Horse magazine.

People often minimize the influence of magazines, but check it out. When Snow's Iron Horse galloped rampant, the Harley Only sentiment, truly mirrored what was felt in the subculture. It is indisputable, that Hondas and their ilk were considered substandard motorcycles, no matter what their technological good points were. The Harley-Davidson motorcycle, was an icon because the depth of its soul and the righteousness of its class. "Class" is not a term you see very often in today's subculture publications, but like any idiom that is truly significant, it says far more than the word, itself. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then certainly an idiom like "class," is worth a hundred. The concept of class is a true reflection of the biker subculture that spawned it. It reveals the principled genuineness that pervades the biker subculture, and how the tenets that are the masts that support the beliefs that constitutes the sails of our subcultural ship, keep us afloat. Harleys have class. Jap Junque does not. Without adhering to these principles, there is bound to be a measurable degradation of the culture.

What does the abandonment of these old school principles, say about the magazines on the stands that now purport to represent our subculture? It says that they've become diluted. Magazines have become diluted and are advocating their diluted views to their readers. The more sheep-like readers who buy into the Me-Tooism of these publications, aren't really rooted in the biker subculture. Get enough people to buy into something through constant repetition, and you have a change in the subculture though brainwashing...for the worse. Just like Iron Horse was influential in disseminating editorial stances that accurately represented subcultural mores of the day, today's magazines are influential in changing the culture to a more diluted and weaker form. Dig it. What I've contended in this article, will never see the light of day in magazines on the racks. Why? because of the political correctness that is so pervasive in the publishing world. Hey man, we can't offend the readers out there who buy Hondas, right? Later.