The Continental / Anglo-Saxon Divide on Homeopathy

It's always slightly surprising to meet one of the many well-educated Germany who believe that homoepathic medicine works — that is, that it has a physiological effect in addition to the placebo effect. It's like talking to a prim, proper middle-class couple for a while and then having them calmly announce to you they're into bondage. Homeopathy is mainstream in Germany, as in all continental European countries. You can find homeopathic 'remedies' in every German pharmacy. Sometimes they are advertised as homeopathic, sometimes this fact is relegated to the fine print, so that customers who understand that homoepathic remedies are placebos may nevertheless be gulled into buying them. German universities routinely offer courses in the history of homeopathy, and in 2008, the first German professor of homeopathy and alternative medicine was created (g).

Homeopathy is one of the more unexpected Anglo-Saxon / Continental European cultural markers. Not that there isn't homoepathy in the U.S. and the U.K. — as James Randi points out in the above video, there are also homeopathic 'medicines' on sale in nationwide drugstore chains in America. But homeopathy is much more entrenched in Europe. Both France and German are home to large companies that manufacture homeopathic products, and the Swiss government, for instance, issued a report in 2011 finding that homeopathy was effective and should be covered by health insurance. The UK government, by contrast, issued a report at the same time finding that homeopathy is bunk, should not be covered by the NHS, and is unworthy of further research. Wikipedia informs us that homeopathy is in decline in the UK, with one homeopathic hospital closing in 2009 and another renaming itself. In the US, '[t]eaching of homeopathy in the USA declined rapidly in the 20th century' and only tiny percentages of Americans use it.

The Overton window is a useful framework. Homeopathy exists in Anglo-Saxon countries, but it's marginal and controversial, and there are active and public forces hostile to it, so it's not Unthinkable, but certainly Radical. In Europe, it still seems to be Sensible and Popular. And this seems unlikely to change.

The Limp Arm of the Law

When it came time for Heinz Nieder, to go to prison for the rest of his life, the local authorieis sent him a letter (g). We now have another example of the German authorities' never-ending, relentless, embittered, near-frenzied search for the truth: art hoarder Cornelius Gurlitt. He deceived the Munich prosecutors' office using one of the most devious strategems imaginable:

"State prosecutors insisted that Mr Gurlitt had 'gone missing'. However, the reporters said Mr Gurlitt had been at home all the time and had simply refused to answer the door."

The Story of the Evil Landlord and the Good Landlord

The Krahestraße in Düsseldorf is in a working-class area near the main train station. For years it's been known for something vicious and ugly: An apartment house owner, Heinz Nieder, wanted to flush out some inconvenient tenants who opposed a renovation, so he hired a workman to open a gas pipeline in the basement of his own apartment building at night.

Six people died in the resulting blast (g), two others were severely injured. The series of resulting trials of the home owner, Heinz Nieder, must count as one of the most humiliating debacles in post-war German justice: he was forced to languish in 'investigative custody' for so long (eventually eight years in total) that the Federal Constitutional Court set him free. Then  two trials against him were overturned on appeal (g) by the German High Court. During much of this judicial odyssey, he was often seen (g) in Düsseldorf's trendy Oberkassel neighborhood, taking walks or sipping espresso.

He was finally sentenced and the verdict upheld on appeal only in 2009. The sentence was life imprisonment (actually a 15-year minimum sentence). The prosecutor's office — believe it or not — sent him a letter asking him to show up for his life prison sentence, please. The letter was sent to his last registered address. Shockingly, it turns out that Mr. Nieder hadn't lived there for at least 3 months (g). He had gone underground and remained on the run for much of mid-2009, working as a renovator. He was picked up only with the help of 'Detective Serendipity' (Kommisar Zufall), as the Germans say — he was found outside a hotel in Marburg Germany full of pills and confused, apparently the result of a suicide attempt. He said he was Ralf Möller from Cologne, but police at the hospital recognized his face (g) from the wanted poster. As of 2011, he was serving his sentence as a cook in a prison hospital (g).

So much for the story of the despicably greedy landlord. Now to the story of the enlightened, art-loving landlord, which also takes place in the Krahestrasse, next to where Heinz Nieder murdered six people. I was biking by there recently and came upon the freshly-completed series of apartment houses forming the 'Mosaic Facade':

Traumfassade Krahestr. (Mosaic Facade) Krahestrasse (Josipa Horvat) General View. ('Traumfassade' Krahestrasse (Josipa Horvat) General View Mosaic Facade Krahestrasse (Josipa Horvat) Peacock Dorrway Mosaic Facade Krahestr. Detail of Entrance with Birds. Detail of Entrance with Birds Mosaic Facade Krahestr. Window . Window

The project was the brainchild of landlord Hans-Rainer Jonas, who has a 'social vein' and prides himself on charging reasonable rents and providing communal space for his tenants. He originally thought of Hundertwasser to decorate the facades of his houses, but then chose the Düsseldorf artist Josipa Horvat. She involved a team of other artists and also residents (g). Sometimes children would come by with fragments of mirror or crockery which would be mosaiced right in next to everything else.

I have my doubts about some urban public art projects, but I love this one. Cheerful without being saccharine, whimsical, and beguilingly curvy. Makes me want to move…