The Column. Eike Becker: "Viva la Vida", published in Immobilienwirtschaft 12/2022

The Column. Eike Becker: "Viva la Vida", published in Immobilienwirtschaft 12/2022

In the world of today there is also that of yesterday and in that of tomorrow there is also a part of today. But fear of the current horrors and threats is a bad advisor. The future is not for the inactive. Nor for conquerors. In the hope for a better coexistence and a good life in harmony with nature, I have written a travel guide into the future.

Today, the “Grote Markt” is the central square of the capital and residence of the Kingdom of Belgium. 500 years ago, Protestants were burned alive here by the Inquisition. 

After a catastrophic bombardment by troops of Louis XIV during the almost forgotten 9 Years War, only the Gothic town hall remained. The remains of the guild houses were demolished and rebuilt in the new Baroque style, magnificent and shining in gold. 

This "world's most beautiful car park" became car-free in 1971 after tough political arguments and a months-long sit-in strike by many citizens. 

Today, wedding couples’ wave from the balcony as if they were the kings of the world, and tourists in the square take photos in return, enthusiastically. Shared moments of personal happiness, full of optimism and confidence.

Coincidentally, Talita and I chose the very weekend for our father-daughter trip during which the band Coldplay is playing several concerts in Brussels. The old city is therefore full of youthful lightness. In the streets we see many excited girlfriends and mothers with their daughters.

Leaving the colorful party crowd in the city center behind, we rent bicycles and set off for the Atomium, Brussels' second landmark. When two electric bikes casually overtake us after half an hour of the uphill journey, we realize that we could have made things a lot easier for ourselves.

The Atomium was built in 1958 for the Expo as a symbol of the atomic age. Today, it shines again, renovated to a spotless quality. The fuel elements of the small reactor that stood there during the world exhibition have now been returned to the USA. There they will continue to radiate for another thousand years. Today, the manifestation of this idea of the future meets a light-hearted public that has appropriated this historic site as a playground and pastime. 

"... And I discovered that my castles stand

Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand..."


Just a few hundred meters away, we look at modernist furniture classics in the Design Museum. Here, everything is bubbling over with designs for the future in colorful plastics, PVC, acrylic and metal, punched, blown up, deep-drawn. A photo from 1958 shows the "creators of contemporary American furniture" in suit and tie, with brightly polished shoes on their chairs. "Photographed especially for Playboy: Alfred Hendrickx on his lounge chair, George Nelson with cigarette on his bar cart, Edward J.Wormley on "a" frame chair, Eero Saarinen with cigar in his sexy womb chair, Harry Bertoia, on diamond chair, Charles Eames without Ray with the Eames chair and Jens Risom on his open armchair." Proud conquerors of the future.

"I used to rule the world, ..."

Without a single woman.

On our way back to the city, we let the wheels roll and ride a large arc through the Parc de Laeken. In elegant curves, back and forth, passing sparse deciduous forests, vast meadows and ponds full of water lilies, we enjoy the sun and the breeze. 

"Viva la Vida!"

This landscape was transformed into a park with bridges, artificial rocks and valleys by Belgium's King Leopold ll and generously opened to the public.

"... Listen as the crowd would sing.

 "Now the old king is dead! long live the king!"

The Free State of Congo was also part of his private estate, with over 2.3 million square kilometers, more than seventy times the size of present-day Belgium. Under his apocalyptic system of exploitation, millions of people there were cruelly mistreated, starved, brutally mutilated or murdered. 

"... I used to roll the dice, 

Feel the fear in my enemy′s eyes..."

We continue the drive to the European Parliament.

Brussels is the headquarters of the European Union. One of the largest economic areas with about 450 million inhabitants from 27 states, the most ambitious and hopeful political project in the world for me. 

Everything is well presented in the Museum of European History and the Parlamentarium: 

The beginnings from the rubble of WW2, the enlargements of the following decades, the opening of the internal borders, after the fall of the Berlin Wall the reconstruction in the East, the foundation of the EU, the Euro, the cooperation in internal-, justice-, foreign- and security policy are enormous successes of the countries that tormented, hated and fought each other for centuries.

But with the financial crisis (2007), the refugee crisis from 2015, and especially the Brexit referendum (2016), the rise of right-wing populist nationalisms, and now the Russian war of aggression, the process of European integration has stumbled. Churchill's vision of a United States of Europe seems a distant memory. 

I am writing this as a 60 year old, in ten years the building sector must have halved climate-damaging emissions, then I will be 70, in 2042 I would be 80, in 2052 90.

 "... One minute I held the key, ..."

Our day in Brussels comes to an end and we make our way to the restaurant Le Marmiton in the Galerie de la Reine. On the menu we find something tasty even as vegans. Like two thirds of the younger generation, Talita rejects factory farming. But governments still ignore its environmental, social and health consequences, even though industrial meat production has already exceeded the ecological limits of our planet and the climate crisis is having a dramatic impact on many people worldwide.

"... Next, the walls were closed on me..."

NATO headquarters is also located in Brussels. The most powerful defense alliance on earth professes in its preamble to peace, democracy, freedom and the rule of law.

An enormous military machinery, the high command of a world order, which with the 700 billion US dollars of the USA alone and 270 billion of the Europeans has over half of the world's armament expenditure.

 "... Seas would rise when I gave the word..."

So if Russian military doctrine sees NATO as a threat to itself, that's not exactly surprising for a now imperialist and corrupt dictatorship.

 "... For some reason, I can′t explain, 

I know Saint Peter won′t call my name, 

Never an honest word, 

But that was when I ruled the world..."

Russia, the country of Gorbachev, is called the "most significant... threat to the security of allies" in the NATO 2022 Strategic Conceptbased on the war against Ukraine. China is seen in it as a challenger to its national interests, as it creates strategic dependencies in the economic field.

"... Hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing

Roman Cavalry choirs are singing

Be my mirror, my sword and shield

My missionaries in a foreign field..."