There are few men who are as quintessentially American as Sonny Barger. He is patriotic—a veteran who loves his country. He is independent—choosing his own path on his motorcycle, living life on his own terms. He is outspoken—he has boldly criticized injustices in American law and society despite the backlash this has evoked from the establishment. Yet the element that he finds most important, most sacred, most American, is freedom.
In Freedom, Sonny articulates many of the principles he employs in his own life. Whether he is regarded as a leader, a rebel, a revolutionary, a criminal, or a soldier, Sonny's outlook has been influenced not just by school but by the military, prison, and his experiences riding with the world's most notorious motorcycle club. It was on these various journeys that he learned the lessons that are most important in his life and the qualities he respects when he sees them in others:
Customize Yourself; Originals Don't Come Off an Assembly Line
Temper the Steel to Forge a Strong Blade
Treat Me Good, I'll Treat You Better; Treat Me Bad, I'll Treat You Worse
Presented in the form of fifty credos, this book gives Sonny Barger's perspective on how to live a life that embodies the most fundamental of American virtues: freedom.
Treat Me Good, I'll Treat You Better.
Treat Me Bad, I'll Treat You Worse.
Be careful how you treat people. It can come back either to help you or come back and bite you on the ass.
Nobody ever confused me with being a priest, a minister, or a holy man. "Treat me good, I'll treat you better; treat me bad I'll treat you worse" is my personal take on "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." Except with a modern edge. The phrase is on a plaque and is hung on an honored spot on my wall, whether at my cycle shops, my office, at home, or in the garage. It serves as a warning to whoever reads it. I'm a
serious, determined man destined to be treated fairly.
I like to take fairness to its logical extreme. When somebody bucks the trend by really going out of his or her way, by going the extra mile and respecting me as opposed to treating me rudely or behaving like an asshole
or an idiot, I respond by treating him or her better. People are like animals, and I mean that in a good way. Horses. Dogs. Cats. I love animals because they instinctively respond to kindness and discipline with loyalty. Kindness,
like violence, can be an effective tool, especially when it's unexpected. When somebody is fair and decent, everybody wins, everybody's happy. But if somebody dares burn me, look out. Rip me off or steal my bike and
you'll be nursing broken bones and drinking salt water.
On an everyday level, there's the example of the guy at the bar pushing you out of the way and stepping on your toes in order to get himself a beer. Three things to consider in this situation: he's either trying to prove something to you, he's showing off to his compadres, or he is in desperate need of a drink and is oblivious to his actions and the world around him.
Let's start by discussing the third. He's got his own troubles and not worth bothering with. The first guy is something you have to obviously deal with and right away. The second guy, these are the unpredictables and
they'll do about anything to show that they are something they aren't, namely tough.
Guys, especially those just out of prison, notice immediately how rude our society has become. Inside the joint, it's "excuse me" and "pardon me, brother." Outside, it's "outta the way, buddy." Dog-eat-dog way of life.
Think about it: What is it like where you live and work, and how do you deal with it?
Another example of being treated badly that annoys the hell out of me is not communicating. If someone tells me they'll get back to me or give me an answer to something and they simply don't get back, it says to me they don't give a shit either about the situation or me or both. It's not being treated fairly, and when the situation arises when they ask you for something, your natural tendency then is to not deal with it at all. If you don't respond, then you're playing the game, too. Treat someone the way you want to be treated.
It reminds me of a story a fellow bike rider told me about being in the navy. When he was assigned duty on a ship, he and all of its crew sailed out into the Pacific Ocean to begin a series of military maneuvers. The first
couple of days out, he kept hearing the words Roger Wilco and he started wondering who this guy Roger Wilco was that everyone was talking about. So he asked some other sailor and he laughed and told him it was part of the basic etiquette in the navy and stood for "Roger," "will comply." First used in the signaling system, it later came to be used when orders were given by a superior and the inferior would make the gesture of saying "Wilco," to signify not only that he had heard him but that the order would be done. That to me is respect and compliance.
When somebody treats you good, see to it that you respond to them. It can be with a simple thank-you and/or a nod. Then you come across as the noble one, as appreciative, a rare quality in an individual these days. And guess what -- what you give is what you get. People value respect; they fight against the opposite. Treat someone badly and it is bound to come back at you sometime. And it does, just when you don't expect it.
There was a young man that joined the club and I immediately noticed that he was being a bit reclusive and standoffish. I liked him and had definitely voted for him to be inducted; I just felt that maybe he wasn't feeling too comfortable yet, was a bit intimidated, and had a little fear. I approached him and told him first that I was glad he was with us, then asked him to clean up some of the trash and garbage that had gathered behind the
headquarters. That's all it took. He respected me for approaching him one-on-one and he respected the fact that I told him to do something as well. He became a brother for life and one of the best members an organization
could ever have. Very dependable.