I've been slammed and have had little time to post. I wrote this way early in the year and never posted it. Super long post, but here it is. This and $2.50 will get you a coffee at Starfucks. The ground swell of shows and parties prompted me to post it. Be gentle, it's not easy putting yourself out there. word!
*** I will preface this post with the following: If you are a regular reader then you know I am not a writer, don't profess to be, I know my spelling, punctuation and grammar tend to be weak. Yes, I have a college degree, but that was Art, not English so bear with me. Also, this may be a long post, I tend to do this from time to time in a stream of consciences. Feel free to comment and add to the dialogue. *****
Every so often there are rumblings of discourse regarding the value of working with ones hands and the importance of supporting fellow artist/builders/craftsmen. It is a very important dialogue, especially here in the US. It is no secret that the slogan " Made in the USA" has sadly lost some strength over the years. I would argue that the apex of US art, design, and manufacturing was the 1940's to the late 60's. Some would go even further and argue that the US has been in decline since the 70's, and there is some evidence to support that. Of course, as "proud" Americans we tend to be a lot more optimistic as well as a little arrogant about our place in the world. But that is an entirely different discussion.
Lot's of recent short films, and articles regarding the subject.
Basically, the current premise is that we make very little in the US any more. Recent generations have lost sight of the value of making things and all that comes with it. There isn't a lot of descent about these opinions. Why this is the case and how we get that back or how we foster the value of craftsmanship and hand made things is a whole different discussion.
Of all the books, articles and stories I've read on the subject, none covers it in such depth as this book.
Extremely well written, apolitical with a heavy philosophical tone. One of the best books I read last year. If you haven't read it, get it. Arguably the definitive book on the subject.
Adding to the discourse:
Philosophically speaking, there are multitudes of layers and complexities regarding why, as Americans, we are where we are today. Of course there is a huge split in opinions depending on your political views, right or left. I try not to get in to that, because if you come at it from a politically right or left stance, the bias can poison the dialogue. Further more, I contend, that in some aspect of opinions, conformity plays a larger role on our perceptions than we may think. Of course, conformity is irrelevant to facts but it can skew views, even shape them. So, the ability to recognize this and shape a view that isn't influenced by some type of conformity is a difficult task, even harder to hold a view that may not be popular one.
The book by Mr. Crawford goes in depth on the shift in the country in the 80s towards tech based industries and away from trade based work. That shift created a ripple effect in the country that cut funding on shop class programs in public schools in exchange for computers. That shift, in part, created the generation we see now. I was lucky to have graduated before this was in full effect. While in high school it was just beginning. Auto shop, drafting etc., were still in place at my school as well as the first rounds of computer classes. Unlike a lot of my peers at the time, my father was of the WWII generation, so he instilled in me the value of hard work and hard labor. My appreciation for American craftsmanship came at a young age thankfully. Although I went on to make my living largely with computers, I never lost sight of that value of tangible creation and craftsmanship. In some form or another, I was always working on something with my hands. The more I did, the more appreciation I developed.
Like I said, now I see myself as lucky. I know a lot of people my age that couldn't fix a leaky faucet to save their lives. I don't blame them entirely, the US needs pencil pushers, but we have far to many pencil pushers and not enough craftsmen/tradesmen.
So, what can we do?
That is a big question with a lot of possibly answers. I'll offer my opinion within the context of our small world of custom motorcycles.
Like it or not, this custom motorcycle world is tiny compared to other fields or disciplines, but the act of creating a custom motorcycle can encompass a lot of specific trades like design, engineering, metal working, welding, mechanics, sculpture, painting, etc. So our community quickly gets a lot larger than just cats building bikes. While it is important to be critical, it is always important to be supportive of the community. Within reason of course.
One of the things that makes motorcycling beautiful is the generosity of the people who love two wheels. Like great artist, most of the best in their fields stand the test of time because, in part, they understand the concept of "annihilating the ego" and the value of reciprocity.
Integrity, character, generosity, humility, respect, dignity, and love for your fellow man are qualities that create a base for a sincere artist or craftsman. Notice I use "sincere" and not "good" or "great". There are a lot of "great" craftsmen/artist that do impeccable work, but the work lacks sincerity and in turn tends to be ego centric. That kind of work will never stand the test of time. As it happens, genuine sincerity tends to lead to great work. There are many examples of this in the custom motorcycle world.
Sometimes these things take a lifetime to learn, other times we are lucky enough to have mentors through life that pass on these concepts. I like to think I at least try to live up to these characteristics and I hope for that among my peers. Building motorcycles in some ways saved my life, so to be able to wake up every day and play with motorcycles is an amazing thing and I don't take any of it for granted. Sharing that love with other like minded people, and even not like minded, is a joy that enriches my life.
For folks like me, that love the old bikes, we've seen a bit of a renaissance in the last 4 to 5 years. The community of people in to old bikes was really small just 5 years ago, now we have an entire new generation of 20 and 30 somethings that have fallen in love with old bikes. It's a wonderful thing. As great as that is, like most things, it brings with it some negative as well. Some jump on because of the trend and instead of offering positive vibes, they bring juvenile attitudes and outlooks. That is to be expected, but like most things it will fade with time as those folks will move on to other things and those that do it for sincere reasons will still be doing it.
In the past this idea of "others riding the coat tails of our culture", really bothered me, but you learn that the negative energy does nothing in the long term and everyone has to start somewhere. I don't care if you've been doing something for 2 months or 30 years, if your are sincere then it will show through. Even if someone initially jumps on the trend for trends sake, then falls in love and learns what it all means, that is great too.
So, what can we do?
Foster positivity. We can support each other, regardless of style, generation, fat tire, or skinny tire, period correct or modern, Harley or Honda. We are are a small group that needs to support each other so we can keep doing what we all love. While shows are fun, competitions are silly. The internet and blogs have opened a huge door to share, communicate and learn. Let's use them to foster growth, encouragement and healthy criticism, not "one upping" each other or stealing from each other.
Support events and rides. There has been a ground swell of events since the first EDR in 06 and it is fantastic. Do whatever you can to support them. It takes tons of effort to organize a ride or event, lend a hand, a little cash, anything. Like most "scenes" there are always "cliques" and politics for one silly reason or another. Rise above it, don't encourage it. Not everyone is going to get along or see eye to eye, but one thing binds all of us, the love of motorcycles and riding. Family, friends and 2 wheels is all that matters.
For God sakes RIDE YOUR DAMN MOTORCYCLE!!!!
If you ride, good for you! Share your road stories, pictures, joy of the ride, camp, living life with friends, that's beautiful. Ride to Love, Love to Ride. The truth will show in your face when you share the stories.
Jeff Wright's FTWCO is a fantastic example of fostering positivity in the 2 wheeled world. Please support it.
If you are a US citizen, buy American when ever humanly possible. I use to not be so hardcore about this given the nature of our global economy, but it is becoming more clear in recent times how devastating the de-industrialization of American has become. That nature of American coorporate business oversees, the dwindling middle class, not to mention the loss of the blue collar workforce, in part, because of the recent trends. So, in recent years this has become more important to me. It is not to say that I am extreme about it, because lets be honest, buying all American these days is next to impossible, it is to say that I make a concerted effort to buy and support American made and American companies first. There are also a lot of small shops all over the world making beautiful hand made parts, support them as well.
Speaking up can be a tricky thing. If you put yourself out there be prepared for some backlash. Knowing that, take a real hard look at yourself before you make a serious stand on an issue. Kind of like someone screaming pro PETA remarks and wearing fake leather shoes. It's not that the message isn't as important it just loses some strength for the community when the messenger is lacking in credibility.
I'm not writing any of this to prop myself on some sort of pedestal, god knows I work hard everyday at trying to be a better person than I was the day before. I'm sure there are plenty of folks out there that have "issue" with me for one reason or another, and that is fine, I can only be me. I'm just trying to put out some positive energy and maybe in some small way offer some dialouge the incourages people to stay true to the love and push us in a direction that improves our lives, not detract from it.
I guess I'm a little tired of all the internet "hating" as well, even the stuff you hear via third parties. It's so damn discouraging and deflating to hear all that silly shit surrounding something you love so much. Not to mention, it's just damn motorcycles, we aren't saving peoples lives, literally. So, stop acting like children and prop up and support your fellow riders/builders and just lovers of 2 wheels. ITS ALL GRAVY MAN!
Sorry for the long post, I encourage you to add to the dialouge. If you want to hate, this isn't the blog for you. Go somewhere else, plenty of that on the intereweds.
CRO CUSTOMS supports lovers, not haters.
further reading etc..