The GAM/DP Theory of Personality and Creativity
by: William A. Therivel, PhD
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-GAM/DP Synopsis
-GAM Introduction
-DP Introduction
-GAM/DP Summary
-Mozart and not Salieri
-Personality Families
-Berlin's Hedgehogs & Foxes
-James Joyce - Fox
-Newton's Personality Styles
-Gifted and Talented
-GAM's Marginal Men
-GAM's Heidegger
-GAM's Nietzsche
-GAM's Nathaniel Hawthorne
-German Ethnopsychology
-Japanese Ethnopsychology
-French Ethnopsychology
-Spanish Ethnopsychology
-Chinese Ethnopsychology
-Argentine Ethnopsychology
-Byzantium's Creativity
-Venice's Creativity
-Chaucer's Griselda
-Western Medicine's Origins
-Individual Growth by Thinking GxAxMxDP
William A. Therivel
-High Creativity Unmasked
-Studying Power
-Studying National Characters
-Studying National Creativity

The ritter German ethnopsychology (character) is discussed in
Therivel's GAM/DP Theory of Personality and Creativity.

German Ethnopsychology

The Ritter (Knight/Warrior) Personality of the Germans.
Are the Germans the Last of the Medievals?

The above is the title of chapter 25 of volume 1 of William A. Therivel's The GAM/DP Theory of Personality and Creativity (G stands for genetic endowment, A for assistances of youth, M for misfortunes of youth, DP for division of power, UP for unity of power). For an introduction to the GAM part of the theory click "Introduction to GAM"; for an introduction to the DP part click on "Introduction to DP".
In this website, the reader is also offered a shortcut: The GAM/DP Synopsis and an expanded version, The GAM/DP Summary of volumes 1 through 4.

The Germans, as well as the Japanese, are a fascinating exception to the rule, by being neither visitors nor insulars as discussed in chapter 11, volume 1 (click on Introduction to DP), but ritter (knight/warrior) because their ethnopsychology evolved not from the unity of power or division of power, but from the partial unity of power of their local lords (for Japan of their local daimyo).

Hereafter, I report the table of contents and a few pages from this long chapter.

This chapter is divided into the following sections:

I. Characteristics and Causes

     1. Introduction
     2. The Main Characteristics of the Ritter Personality
     3. Fidelity
     4. The Misuse of Fidelity
     5. The Origins of the Ritter Personality under Partial Unity of Power
     6. Courage and Bravery
     7. Hard Work and Thoroughness

II. Causes for the Anomalous Permanence in Germany of the Middle Age System and for the Continuity of the Ritter Mentality

     1. Germany Was the Major Loser in the War of Supremacy
     2. The Preferential Treatment of France by the Papacy, at the Cost of Germany
     3. The Unity of Power of the German Semi-Caesaropapism at both the National and
         Local Levels
     4. Germany's Fragmentation into a Large Number of Principalities with Permanence of
         the Feudal System and Mentality
     5. The Historical Continuity of the German Language

III. The Last of the Medievals?

     1. Der deutsche Sonderweg (The German Special Way)
     2. A Different Cause?

IV. And Today?

The Main Characteristics of the Ritter and the Skeptical Personalities

Knight/Warrior (often politician too) Skeptical
Treue (Fidelity) Disenchanted
Courage Disillusioned
Hard work Disappointed
Discipline in following orders or in setting the example Indifferent
Energy and endurance Pessimistic
Gründlichkeit (Thoroughness) Possibly cynical, too
Perfectionism and pedantry With few hopes for the future of society
Heroism Often ironical, or melancholic or misanthropic
Pride At times utopian, demanding the impossible
Hate of compromise  
Will to power  
Ferocity and cruelty  
A certain love for pomp and uniforms  
Love for the romantic  
Tendency to theorize  
Obsession with the ideal  
Sollen über Sein (Must over being)  

Note: For each person, each characteristic will be present in different proportions, many of them not at all. Yet, their sum will be significantly different than in the case of, say, a visitor or insular personality. Basically, these are ethnopsychological characteristics describing the modal personality of large ethnic groups, when studied according to the present theory of power; because of this they include a variety of characteristics, some incompatible with others, but which are possible under that specific type of power structure.

I. Characteristics and causes

1. Introduction

     In his book The Europeans of 1983, Luigi Barzini described the personality of the Germans, along their history, as mutable, and correspondingly, the chapter on them is entitled: "The Mutable Germans". The other chapters are: "The Imperturbable British," "The Quarrelsome French," "The Flexible Italians," "The Careful Dutch, and "The Baffling Americans." Barzini calls Germany a "trompe l'oeil Protean country. . . . Every time I was there on a journalistic mission, I saw a startling new country, only vaguely resembling what I had seen before or what I had read about. . . . I was aware there must have been a constant basic Germany, whose virtues and vices practically went unchanged from one metamorphosis to the next, from one regime to its successor, from one political, philosophic, or aesthetic fashion to another. But it was difficult. . . . It is still difficult for foreigners, and for the Germans themselves. What is the shape of Proteus when caught unaware at rest?" (pp. 69-71).
     What indeed is the shape of the German Proteus when caught unaware? My answer would be that his basic shape is (or was up to the 1960s) that of a Ritter (knight/warrior). Looking behind the many metamorphoses, I saw an all-pervading Ritter personality (or Ritter mentality, or Ritter scripts) "whose virtues and vices practically went unchanged from one metamorphosis to the next, from one regime to its successor," which manifests itself differently in function of different cultural, economic and political conditions. During bourgeois non-Ritter times, his Ritter mentality goes into hiding, only to quickly come back during nationalistic, pro-Ritter times.
     This fundamental Ritter personality is not only what differentiates the Germans, past and present, from other people such as the British, French, Italians, Dutch, and Americans but also what gives the Germans a degree of continuity, of immutability, that other people don't have. It is a paradox, but only an apparent one, that the people who seem so mutable are, in reality, the most constant behind a series of superficial changes.
     Yes, it is true that the Germans give the impression to have changed often, quickly and by much: from being unwarlike and gemütlich, as noted by Madame de Staël in her
De l'Allemagne of 1810: "Nothing is odder than the German soldiers. . . . They fear fatigue or bad weather, as if they were all shopkeepers or literati" (quoted by Barzini, 1983, p. 72) to the daring and efficient soldiers of Blücher at Ligny-Waterloo or the disciplined, relentless, unstoppable spiked helmets of the 1870 war against France. Going back about four centuries, Barzini quoted another peaceful, unwarlike description of the Germans, this time by Machiavelli in his Ritratto delle Cose della Magna [Picture of the German situation] of 1508-12: "E così si godono questa rozza vita e libertà; e per questa causa non vogliono ire alla guerra." (Thus they enjoy their rough life and their liberty, and do not want to go to war) (1983, p. 72). Yet not long after from Germany came those fierce Landsknechte who sacked Rome in 1527: "The atrocities and profanations they committed far exceeded those inflicted in the past by Goths or Vandals, Saracens or Normans" (Cheetham, 1982, p. 201). A careful reading of Machiavelli could have told Barzini not to stress the "do not want to go to war." Two paragraphs earlier, he would have read that: "in soldati non spendono, perché tengono li uomini loro armati ed esercitati; e li giorni delle feste tali uomini, in cambio delli giuochi, chi si esercita collo scoppietto, chi colla pica, e chi con una arme e chi con una altra" (1966, p. 821) (They do not spend money for soldiers, because they keep their men armed and trained, and on festive days those men, instead of playing games, exercise, who with rifles, who with pikes, who with one weapon and who with another). So, those Germans may not have wanted to go to war (i.e., to any war), but they were very well prepared for it. In other words, even in peaceful times, their life was embedded in a Ritter ethnopsychology, driven by mighty sticks and carrots. As soon as one gave them a good reason to wage war, they did it with gusto and efficiency. Or, even if they did not want war, when called to duty they knew how to perform.
     Thomas Mann also had discovered this kind of rapid change when, in his novel Lotte in Weimar, he commented, through the voice of Adele Schopenhauer, on the rapid evolution of the German personality during Napoleonic times: "One must admit that he [Napoleon] changed the Germans very much. He turned their milk--that is to say, their homely, pious ways of give and take--into boiling dragon's blood; and he even made a grim patriot and soldier of freedom out of the versatile humanist von Humboldt. Shall we account it a merit or a crime in Caesar, that he changed our minds and brought us to ourselves? I will not judge" (1990, p. 184). That "brought us to ourselves," is significant! Even the versatile humanist changed rapidly!

2.The Main Characteristics of the Ritter Personality

     The main characteristics of the Ritter (knight/warrior) personality are fidelity, courage, hard work, discipline in following orders or in setting the example, energy and endurance, perfectionism and pedantry, heroism, pride, arrogance, hate of compromise, will to power, superhumanism, greediness, anger and rage, ferocity and cruelty, a certain love for pomp and uniforms, love for the romantic, tendency to theorize, obsession with the ideal, sollen über sein. Obviously, for a given person, each of them will be present in different proportions, many not at all, yet their sum-integration should differentiate a large number of Germans from say a large number of Britons, French, Italians, Dutch, Americans. Many of these are positive traits, virtues which most people should strive for. Sadly also, many of these traits can quickly transform themselves into ugly negative traits when put at the service of nefarious leaders or a tyrannical society. However, whenever these virtues have been put to work, in a just free society, they have produced wonders. Indeed, often, Germans abroad have done admirably. Away from home it was easier for them to choose which ideal to follow, which program to serve or lead.
     The Ritter personality in question has nothing to do with an assumed "national spirit" or with the expression of assumed innate and unchangeable ethnic or racial characteristics. Instead, according to the DP theory, it is the direct and indirect long-term result of a situation of partial unity of power. "Direct" refers to the immediate influences exercised by the power holder via sticks, carrots, ideology, and propaganda. "Indirect" refers to the assimilation of the pervading Ritter scripts, from infancy onward, from parental and peer modeling, schooling, fairy tales, proverbs, ballads, novels, sermons, etc. The ethnoscripts--because learned so early in life and in so many indirect ways--show a strong inertia and evolve slowly, so that the unit of time for their study is that of generations at minimum, commonly of whole centuries (in the absence of radical national tragedies).

3. Fidelity

     Fidelity is the main virtue of the Ritter world, highly praised, constantly preached and demanded unconditionally by every lord. Only so could the lord avoid insubordination, neglect of duties, betrayals, or coups d'état. As long as each lord was in constant warfare with his neighbors or with his overlord (as was for so long the case in Germany and Japan), he had to maintain a ready army staffed with faithful warriors, constantly trained, ready to intervene at any moment, capable of using their initiative within a clearly understood overall scheme.
     In feudal times, faithfulness was "a two-sided attitude as a (new) covenant with God or an engagement with men with whom one is not naturally related. It is never a relationship between equals; the partners are distinct in rank. A new human bond is created beside that of kinship and 'friendship,' or the patriarchal power over servants, or the military-political obligations of obedience to the king or his officers. Fidelity is something like all of these and yet different" (Fichtenau, 1991, p. 52). "The more able a knight was as a warrior, the more dangerous he might be if he lacked loyalty. Thus prowess and loyalty were the great feudal virtues.

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