Don’t Let The Greedheads Win
I got out of bed, logged on, and saw that Hunter S. Thompson had killed himself the night before. Fuck.
I went back to bed.
I should have stayed there.
Because to me, a world that drives the good Doctor to kill himself, well, that’s a world that certainly isn’t much fun, and frankly, more than a bit scary. Whatever Hunter faced at the end — ill health, the results of a lifetime of dissipation, or who knows what, whatever it was had drifted black enough, had become too much for him to take. It is scary because Hunter, above all else, was a writer. A damn fine, at times stellar, writer. Writers face ugly shit everyday. It’s what there is to write about. And by writing about the dark things, the looming terrors, the “horror”, we hope to beat them back to size, at least for a night.
The first time you read Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, his most famous work, you are overwhelmed by the sheer high-wire act he attempts, that walking of the tightrope between the book’s monstrous debauchery and chilling insights. Once you progress past re-reading (or, heaven forbid, trying at home…ahem…) the drug passages, you are stopped cold by Thompson’s wit, his sense of moral outrage, and his brutal, unapologetic honesty. You start to realize that hidden (as it had to be) among the endless glasses of Chivas, the mounds of white power, the floorboards of ether-soaked rags and assorted pills, were descriptions of America as harrowing as anything penned by Sinclair Lewis, as artistic as the best of Hemingway, and as real an accounting of the state of the union as anyone has yet attempted. It is easy to accept the caricature Hunter, the drug-addled, Johnny Depp-portrayed comic strip figure of late, much easier for the masses to look and say “There goes another bit of ’60s drug wreckage,” instead of understanding what the man was about, each and every damn day. Which could be stated simply as this:
Don’t let the fucking greedheads win.
From his first book Hell’s Angels, to the end, HST reacted in horror to the world around him. He was, (and by extension, his readers as well) locked in a battle with those forces around him that cheapened our planet. The people who used elected office to fatten their nests, which lied, whored, and stole whatever they couldn’t buy or sell, the developers who parceled out his precious country out from under him, and the masses of sheep that followed them, bleating oh-so-correctly day after day. He loathed Nixon (yet talked football with him), he called Bush a monster, the current administration “the most dangerous he’d ever seen.” It is this that we as a culture will most miss. Hunter Thompson, for all his exaggerations, for all his lies, told the truth. He couldn’t help it, or escape it. Thompson saw the world bare, for what it was, a selfish orb controlled by the greedheads, constantly at war with the good people. HST was one of the good people. In fact, one of the best. It is his voice, his rage, his hysterical indignation that we will miss most, his (un)steady consul in the dark times now no longer active.
But not dead. For somewhere there is a kid reading, for the first time, Fear and Loathing… and going “Hell yeah, he’s right. Those people suck…” and then going out and doing something about it, getting active. Or as Thompson put it:
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was as weird- and as pro- as they got. Our world is a lesser place without his sense of outrage. But if you listen carefully, in the early hours of the morning, your ears sharpened by some chemical recipe, you can hear a voice croaking out from the Woody Creek Tavern, the harsh rasp of too many cigarettes down from the snow-covered hills:
Don’t let the fucking greedheads win.
Message received, Hunter. Goodnight, you glorious bastard.