Hunter wrote this essay in 1955 for The Athenaeum Literary Association’s bound yearbook, it won third prize in The Nettleroth contest. Great writing for an 18 year old, and makes for a funny read too.
Young people of America, awake from your slumber of indolence and hark-en the call of the future! Do you realise you are rapidly becoming a doomed generation? Do you realise that the fate of the world and of generations to come rests on your shoulders? Do you realise that at any time you may be called on to protect your country and the freedom of the world from the creeping scourge of communism? How can you possibly laugh in the face of the disasters which face us all from all sides? Oh ignorant youth, the world is not a joyous place. The time has come for you to dispense with the frivolous pleasures of childhood and get down to honest toil until you are sixty-five. Then and only then can you relax and collect your social security and live happily until the time of your death. Also your insolent attitude disturbs me greatly. You have the nerve to say that you have never known what it is like to live in a secure and peaceful world; you say that the present generation has balled things up to the extent that we now face a war so terrible that the very thought of it makes hardened veterans shudder; you say it is our fault that World War ll was fought in vein; you say that it is impossible to lay plans for the future until you are sure you have a future. I say Nonsense! None of these things matter. If you expect a future you must carve it out in the face of these things. You also say that you must wait until after you have served your time with the service to settle down. Ridiculous! It is a man’s duty to pull up stakes and serve his country at any time, then settle down again.
I say there is no excuse for a feeling of insecurity on your part; there is no excuse for juvenile delinquency; there is no excuse for your attitude except that you are rotten and lazy! I was never like that! I worked hard; I saved; I didn’t run around and stay out late at night; I carved out my own future through hard work and virtuous living, and look at me now: a respectful and successful man.
I warn you, if you don’t start now it will be too late, and the blame for the end of the world will be laid at your feet. Heed my warning, oh depraved and profligate youth; I say awake, awake, awake!
Fearfully and disgustedly yours, John J. Righteous-Hypocrite.
Hunter S Thompson's very first piece for Rolling Stone is one of his most famous. In October 1970 he chronicled in wonderful detail his bid to become a Colorado sheriff; to win the vote of the "Freaks, Heads, criminals, anarchists, beatniks, poachers, Wobblies, bikers and Persons of Weird Persuasion". The Battle Of Aspen: Freak Power in the Rockies revealed Thompson to be a perceptive political writer, a skill he would refine in his seminal presidential election series for Rolling Stone, Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail '72.
Then again, The Battle Of Aspen also boasts the line: "On my own front porch I have a palm tree growing in a toilet bowl… and on occasion I like to wander outside, stark naked, and fire my .44 Magnum at various gongs I've mounted on the nearby hillside."
And therein lies the counter-cultural allure of Hunter S Thompson, which this compendium of Thompson's work for Rolling Stone over a 34-year period does little to dissipate. That he popularised a new, exciting form of gonzo journalism, where the profane, hyperactive writer was at the heart of the story, is without question. But reading his dispatches back to back doesn't confound the notion that, for all the liberating properties of gonzo's speedy reportage, if Thompson wasn't completely on the ball his work could seem dashed off and self-obsessed. Given that, in only his second piece for Rolling Stone, he details his custom for consuming large quantities of "cactus products", it's no surprise that Thompson's lifestyle eventually caught up with his writing.
Still, people loved to read his work – and didn't Rolling Stone know it. The book also reveals Thompson's correspondence with the editorial team, and one letter bears a list of exciting commissions and generous deadlines. "None of these assignments came to fruition," is written in italics underneath. Thompson was probably on the hunt for cactus. But Rolling Stone still went back for more.