Good Times in Dystopia
Review by Wil Crisp
In this European tour of grass roots anarchism and radical activism George F navigates the peripheries of mainstream society from decaying squats in east London to pastoral protest treehouses in Germany’s ancient Hambach Forest. Ricocheting between nihilistic partying and anti-capitalist campaigning the author documents their surroundings in the tradition of George Orwell, Jack Kerouac, Tom Wolfe, and Hunter S Thompson.
George F is both observer and organiser: breaking into a theme park, running workshops on the frontlines of climate protests, and documenting amphetamine-fuelled fast living in the underbelly of London’s squat scene. As the book twists its way through peaceful protests in Paris, pitched battles with the police in Berlin, and violent conflict with security guards in Germany’s largest open pit coal mine – it explores the nature of rebellion, the role of violence in grass roots politics and the contemporary dynamics of modern capitalism. With artful prose and an eye for detail George F finds both beauty and tragedy in underworld communities forged by hippies, artists, gutter punks and drug-fuelled squatters that have rejected mainstream ideas about politics, economics, and sexuality.
As they hitchhike and shoplift between occupied spaces, illegal raves and protest sites George F builds on their first work of literary nonfiction, Total Shambles, digging deeper into the darker side of European squat culture. The reader is introduced to ideologues, like Berlin-based El Culo who sells beers to tourists when he isn’t taking part in anarchist projects, radical artists like George’s lover Mierda, and social dropouts, like the hapless Barnabas – who rarely drinks and dutifully drives other squatters to parties.
Good Times in Dystopia documents their communal and often dysfunctional lifestyles on the fringes of society – and the support networks they create in order to sustain their unorthodox existence. Amid the pizza boxes filled with human shit, rainy days spent angle grinding locks, infected tattoos, LSD, bad sex, and stolen whisky – the book sketches lives lived at highspeed that sometimes end tragically. Good Times in Dystopia functions as a chaotic handbook on protest tactics and anarchistic organisation – as well as a visceral love song to those living on the anarchic borderlands of society. Describing the art of resistance and occupation in detail, the book shows how veteran protesters take on the police, landlords and large corporations in different countries – and legal jurisdictions. It details the “perfect” way to be arrested at a climate protest in Paris, as well as describing various techniques to deal with bailiffs and the police in the UK. George F’s journey takes him to martial arts classes for the homeless in Hackney, an anarchist masturbation workshop in Berlin’s Rigaer Strasse, and The Mother Black Cunt, a queer club in Camden that has been squatted and reopened for a final night of debauchery and celebration.
Good Times in Dystopia is dotted with photos of twisted paintings that have been daubed inside occupied buildings, extracts from anarchist pamphlets, and quotes from political theorists – creating a DIY montage of the various influences that have shaped the communities George F is documenting. At times horrifying and unrelenting, the book provides a unique window into romances forged amid decaying buildings and drug abuse – and the elation that can come with winning small victories over bailiffs and corporations. As well as documenting the highs – it also offers insight into the isolation that can come with rejecting, or being rejected by, wider society. The depression, breakdowns and bewilderment that can come with facing up to climate crisis and turning your back on functioning plumbing, sobriety, monogamy, and money.
Good Times in Dystopia can be ordered here.