Updated: Dec 16, 2019
What Separates the 1%’ers from the Rest of Us ?
When the general public sees a group of motorcycle riders wearing matching patches on the back of a vest, what do they think ? It is a sad reality that the reputation of the worst MCs’ is borne by all of us. Let’s face it, we tend to look alike. Most people don’t care to look beyond the surface. It’s not until someone they know buys a bike or joins a club that they even consider the merits of a law abiding motorcycle club. We don’t get near as much press as those who do “newsworthy” things like dope dealing, murder, assault. People sometimes cringe when they see us because they fear the very things we will not do. Thanks to those who resemble us.
The difference between us and the 1%’ers is clearly not on the visual surface but is only found below the surface in the less tangible, but much more important, aspects of a motorcycle club. Things like structure, function, and philosophy, all reflected in the behaviors of the members, are where the true differences can be found.
But We’re Not Like Them !
People see a “Club” and think “Gang”. Does your club act territorial or confrontational with other clubs ? Do your members display profanity, vulgarity or anti-social messages on their cuts, bikes, websites, etc.? Does your membership openly display/carry weapons in public ? Does your club or members frequent places where the outlaws go or hang out ? Do you act like you are part of their world ? Do you attend their functions and/or support their activities ? Do you promote the image of intimidation ?
The “Rule of Law’ versus the “1%’er Code”.
The Rule of Law refers to the underlying social contract where people agree to abide by laws which are passed and implemented for the good of all. We agree to give up a certain amount of absolute freedom in exchange for some measure of security. For example, most acts of violence are outlawed to protect the weak and innocent. In an imperfect system of government, we elect people to make laws and have people who are sworn to enforce these laws. We have a system of punishment and accountability. Certain rights are guaranteed to ALL. The overall goal is peaceful co-existence of people in a diverse society. A law abiding motorcycle club recognizes this order of society and accepts it as their own. We live our lives, protect ourselves, and settle our disputes within this frame work called the “Rule of Law”. All other codes of conduct regulating behavior are secondary to the rule of law.
The 1%’er Code is more of a loose set of “rules” adopted by those MC’s which are meant to replace the “Rule of Law” by people who claim to have shunned society’s laws. Some would say these rules evolved from the Code of Chivalry of the Knights era and the Code of the West of the American Cowboy. These codes were meant set out the best practices of men of high integrity at a time when ethics was a fleeting concept and the law of the jungle was more common. There may be 1%’ers who truly believe in these Codes, but it doesn't square with the too often seen incidents of violence and other criminal acts committed by 1%’ers who only want to instill fear and each other and outsiders as well. Many of the common practices of today’s 1%’ers are not reflected or supported by codes of honor that are said the be the basis of the 1%’er code. Codes of Conduct observed by these clubs vary widely from high integrity to deeply depraved. Very often the stated code of conduct looks nothing like the actual behaviors exhibited by some club members.
For those who choose to live in the 1% world, it is a conscious decision to leave the protections of the “Rule of Law” behind. It means that those seeking acceptance in the 1% world give up their Constitutional right of self expression when it comes to wearing patches, displaying geographical names, setting up and operating a motorcycle club. Instead, these things are dictated by a “Dominant” club who decides what rights are granted to others in an autocratic fashion. Too often this is necessary in order to control the various criminal enterprises and profits that 1% clubs often compete for. Sometimes it is just about simple dominance and control.
The conflict here is that there are many motorcycle clubs that don’t identify with 1% values, codes, or practices. These motorcycle clubs do not seek the approval or acceptance of the 1% clubs because they don’t need it or want it. The rule of law gives them all the right they need to form a club, choose membership, wear patches, display a State name, and ride the roads as they see fit.
So Why Do The 99% Emulate The 1% In So Many Ways ?
It’s important to look at the similarities that raise this question. The Motorcycle is obviously the center of it all. It’s hard to describe the common attraction by people who can be so different. But every biker agrees that it is a way of life. The mode and style of dress is based on leather and denim which are practical choices to say the least. The choice of body art including tattoos are forms of individual expression and as diverse as the people who wear them. Individualism is the whole point. Like minded people banding together for mutual enjoyment and common purpose is a simple and instinctive human trait. The back patch is how this is expressed. The reasons and logic employed by different groups is where the real differences lie.
The similarities between the 99% and the 1% are less than skin deep and only exist on the surface. The philosophy, conduct, and behaviors of these motorcycle clubs is less prominent but profoundly different. These things cannot be seen from the perspective of the casual observer.
Those clubs who try to emulate the 1% clubs do so because they aspire to be part of the 1% world and seek acceptance and approval of 1% clubs. This is evident in their behaviors.
While the 99% clubs may resemble, visually, the 1% clubs they want nothing to do with them. Their structure and function, their law abiding policies, and their embracing the “Rule of Law” as a guiding philosophy make them completely incompatible with the 1% clubs. The 99% acknowledge the 1% lifestyle and recognize that the “Rule of Law” offers the 1% the same rights and protections as the 99%. Live and Let Live.
Why Do the 1%’er’s Hate The Cops So Much ?
The 1%’er’s see themselves as disenfranchised and left out of mainstream society for a variety of reasons. One of which is the alienation suffered by returning war veterans. Another is the increasing marginalization of the middle class by an increasingly elitist government. This can explain the anger they feel toward society in general. Many 1% er’s feel that it is OK for regular people to be afraid of them. The intimidation card is often joyfully played. When that fear turns to anger, the public will turn to the one real protection they have, the police. Investigations, indictments, convictions, and asset seizures are the peoples’ weapons in their response to motorcycle outlaws. The people don’t care if the cops go too far once the fight is on. The Rule of Law will always prevail, imperfect though it is.
Why Do Cops Form LE MC’s If They Are So Different From The 1%er’s That They Look So Much Like ?
There is no simple answer here. The one thing the cops and the 1%er’s have in common is that they are socially isolated from the public at large. The human need for acceptance, fellowship, and brotherhood causes both to find common bond in social activities. Motorcycling is just one of these things. These people identify and empathize with each other due to their common circumstances. This mutual understanding allows for a higher level of trust than can be found outside of these circles. Part of the motivation by the LEMCs is to prove that the MC subculture belongs just as much to the law abiding as to the outlaw, but for different reasons.
Though the reasons for forming both types of clubs are different, the motivations are the same. They look alike but they don’t act alike. The visual clues that differentiate the 1%er’s from the 99% clubs are subtle. The general public does not look that close. If what they see resembles what they fear they will react accordingly.
Why is There So Much Rivalry Between Motorcycle Clubs ?
Human rivalry rises far above the instinctual competition for life’s essential resources like food, shelter, and procreation.
In the case of 1% MC’s the rivalry often is over “territory” which can’t really be owned, but can be controlled for criminal enterprises. Add to that the human perception of insult or offense and the frailty of EGO among men seeking the elusive “Respect” and status of being respected. The mob mindset will sometimes prevail as one group seeks to impose its will on another using threats, intimidation, and violence in an attempt to establish “dominance” in the MC culture. Some of these incidents have resulted in retaliation and developed into long standing feuds between 1% clubs and their supporters. In the 1% world the rule of law is not recognized or employed when the conflict turns violent. The rule of law often comes from the outside when the authorities choose to, or are forced to intervene. This is usually due to pressure from the families of the victims or the general public. The 1%er’s say they are not subject to the rule of law, but society and its authorities see it differently.
Sometimes this struggle for dominance crosses over into the 99%er MC world when a 1% or outlaw club attempts to interfere with a law abiding club’s right to exist and operate. Law abiding MC’s have made contact with the “Dominant” 1% club or have been contacted by them and told they could not wear certain types of patches, operate in certain areas, or must pay some sort of tribute or support to them in exchange for their general safety. It is often a thinly veiled threat. There are very few documented incidents of a law abiding club being assaulted by a 1% club, but it does happen.
The Bottom Line
The 1%er’s do not recognize the “Rule of Law” and choose to live by their own “Code”. The 99%er’s choose the “Rule of Law’ as does 95% of society at large. Society will use the “Rule of Law” and all that it entails to deal with the 1% when they trespass too far into the public peace.
The law abiding motorcycle clubs that wish to build and maintain a positive public image must face the dauntingly negative public perception created by the outlaw clubs in their disdain for society and each other.
The motorcycle itself is the great equalizer in all of this as its mystique is an attraction to all. Outside of the motorcycle club subculture millions of people have experienced the thrill of riding a motorcycle and they understand the feeling of freedom and adventure that it brings.
For every person who shudders at the sight of you, in leathers, on your cruiser, with your friends, there is at least one who wishes he/she was right there with you.