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Home > People

Saint Hunter

28 February 2005

As hordes of weeping Gonzo fans dropped reams of honorific acid this week, and held tremulous hands over homemade sťance tables, the fuckoffs and misfits of the press churned out an endless stream of articles in the vain hope or wringing some as yet unuttered pearls from the good doctor's toxic corpse. This bit of tat you're reading now is of course no exception.

Now that he's finally blasted off this mortal coil, the pertinent question is perhaps, what can we learn from the life and death of Hunter Stockton Thompson? And a quick perusal of a cross-section of internet forums, penned by both fans and fuckoffs alike, tells us that whatever it is, we haven't got a fucking hope. For, apart from the standard 'HST RIP: you will be sorely missed' stuff, there are an awful lot of people who really haven't got a fucking clue. A few examples:

'I'm just shocked, I don't understand suicide and have a hard time respecting people who make that choice which makes it a million times harder when someone whom I respect and look up to chooses to take that as a way out.'

'[Thompson's suicide is] a scary thought for me because psycidelics are what made me relized what a waste suicide is.'

'Fuck you Thompson. Coward.'

'I am burning all of my HST books tonight.'

'...let's not ignore what this man did. He COMPLETELY screwed m over his family by committing suicide. I have a hard time generating respect for him when he is willing to have those who did care about him suffer simply because he did not wish to deal with life. My sympathy goes to his family. They did not begin to deserve this. But Thompson? He took a coward's way out and left his family in the lurch.'

'Personally, I disagree with suicide and would never commit it myself, but to say it is wrong for everyone is assinine.'

Assinine indeed.

Thompson's suicide is - even for someone with just a passing acquaintance with his work - not only perfectly understandable; it is also wholly admirable. Hunter S Thompson lived his life according to his own rules. That's what he did. That's why the people that loved him loved him. Because he took no shit and he didn't give a fuck. From a very early age, he pissed all over everything that said 'behave like this' and did what he wanted.

That - plus his own personal knowledge that people like him are depressingly few and distressingly far between - made him the legend he will always be. All of his life, no matter how fucked-up it got, Hunter S. Thompson was in the driving seat. He took no shit and he didn't give a fuck. The only time he would ever have to relinquish control was in Old Age. And that's not something he was prepared to do.

Rather like Hunter, Old Age takes no shit, and rather like Hunter, it doesn't give a fuck. Most of us have no choice but to knuckle under, conform to its cruel, wasting tyranny and slowly decay. Most of us see no alternative but to shuffle listlessly into uselessness and dependence, to stop actively living and just accept the inevitable pain and indignity. This is because most of us agree at least in part with the sheep above who see something wrong in self-slaughter, something cowardly. Plus the fact of course that most of us never really lived in our youth anyway, so the slowing down and stopping typified by our autumn years doesn't really make that much of an impact. It's not that monumental a sacrifice.

But Hunter S. Thompson was never most of us, and because Old Age threatened to stop Hunter S. Thompson being Hunter S. Thompson, he was simply not prepared to accept it. Right up to the bitter end, he was not prepared to play by anyone else's rules. Once again, he took the law into his own hands. His suicide wasn't cowardice. It was so far from cowardice it's a fucking joke.

Ironically - brilliantly - Hunter S Thompson's suicide managed to actually be life-affirming.

It brings to mind the following words from the Julian Barnes novel Staring at the Sun. In context the character who thinks them onto the page is wholly opposed to them, but here they fit, like a fist in a glove: 'Suicide wasn't self-abnegation. It didn't say: I am so miserable and unimportant that it doesn't matter if I destroy myself. It said the opposite: look, it said, I am important enough to destroy.'

His body was breaking down. Immobility beckoned. And Hunter took out his gun, and he shot it in the face. He that lives by the Self shall die by the Self.

He took no shit, and he didn't give a fuck.

What a guy.

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