So just for a quick "historical" context. This is a continent where numerous races other than humans exist as does somewhat weak magic. In the medieval era the humans attempted to genocide/enslave all the other races in the calamity war. Ultimately they were defeated by an alliance of non-human nations lead by a hero (non-human) who most believe is a goddess of nature and war. There are no more human nations now, as all of them either got conquered or collapsed due to famine (wrath of nature). Humans still live though their numbers were severely diminished.

Her children, using her godlike status, army and approval of their allies, create a kingdom of their own, Piena. Now they are obsessed with the idea that their kingdom becomes incorruptible and its ethics do not change, because of events in the war. Even through the ages. So they decide that the most rational way to proceed is to brainwash (includes a combination of magic, drugs over long periods of time) their ideals into the next generations.

Unfortunately Piena can't brainwash everyone. Piena can't brainwash its allies, because diplomacy. Piena can't brainwash its entire population, because money. Piena can brainwash it's nobility and royalty though. Piena can also brainwash the people doing the brainwashing. Also we are assuming that everyone knows about the brainwashing and the nobility of Piena is fine with it initially.

Some general information : Piena is situated at a crossroads of most of the major river-ways in the region and as such is hard to avoid inland. Its territory contains those of an old human nation as such it has about 30% of its population being human. It has very fertile soil (from rivers) and thus a large population (especially for after the war) but not other riches except its strategic location and army. Genocide should be avoided but slavery is completely fine. At the end of the war all nations which didn't collapse were in the winning alliance so at least initially Piena is surrounded by friendlies and doesn't have to worry about an immediate military threat other than bandits/small warlords from the collapsed remains of other kingdoms. The hero is also worshipped widely outside Piena's borders though there are different churches, some of which don't consider her children divine. Pilgrimages to her mausoleum in the capital city are widespread in all cults. In the stories told by priests she is basically a mary sue.

Now because asking "how would this work" is a bit to general here are some specific questions :

  • How would the founders organise Pienan society to ensure long-term stability ?
  • How would other nations (which are initially all allies) react and how should Piena respond to them ?
  • What to do if brainwashing fails or is only partially successful on a member of the royalty (who are believed to be descendents of a goddess including by some cults abroad) ?
  • How would the brainwashed leadership, say 600 years later, assuming they survived this long, react to things like industrial/magical revolution, which the founders couldn't anticipate (note that the founders MAY not be averse to "technology" but couldn't anticipate such rapid changes) ?
  • Now say you are a foreign nation, how would you take advantage of this situation ?
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    $\begingroup$ Most states do brainwash the ruling classes, as well as the ruled to know their places and to follow a specific code of conduct, depending on their social status. It's called morality, peer pressure, noblesse oblige, whatever. The problem is that people are far better at making up justifications to do what they want for any brainwashing to actually be effective ling term. The instant anyone develops a better brainwashing scheme, the universe invents a better brain. Barring external impact, your nation is ancient Egypt, Rome or China. As for the other questions, ask those separately. $\endgroup$ – nzaman Oct 21 '18 at 11:55
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    $\begingroup$ (1) There were no "nations" as we understand the word in the antiquity and the middle ages. Before the modern age, the word "nation" meant "a collection of random people speaking the same language, or at least a bunch of closely related dialects". It was not expected for the people of one such "nation" to have a common political organization, and it actually almost never happened; and when it did happen (rarely), it was purely accidental. (2) Medieval states were extremely poor; they could not even provide basic education for all their aristocrates, much less indoctrinate them so thoroughly. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 21 '18 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, and medieval states did not have "citizens"; they had "subjects". It bugs me that people don't realize that in the middle ages there was no tax on income or on profit. States simply did not have the means to perform large scale social services, or to built large scale infrastructure, or to maintain large scale permanent armies. In a medieval society the state provides only some form of justice (provided that both parties agree to submit, or the aggrieved party catches the criminal and presents him), and for everything else it was every person or village or manor for themselves. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 21 '18 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ First, too many questions. Second, "brainwashing" is an absurdity, a term we use to describe ideological partisanship, or the excitement of a mob, or devotion to a leader. You use the term unironically as if it's a clinical treatment that one performs, and assume that we all take this for granted. Human beings (even fictional non-human ones) have free will and cannot actually be programmed like robots. You have to decide for yourself what kind of culture prevails among your aristocracy, based on the kind of story you want to tell. Too opinion-based. $\endgroup$ – workerjoe Oct 22 '18 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ Please note that Stack Exchange's model is one-specific-question/one-best-answer. SE is not a discussion forum. $\endgroup$ – JBH Oct 28 '18 at 14:54

The brainwashing is sold as a necessity for leadership

This is more or less how the society was structured in George Orwell's 1984, and that in turn was very loosely based on ideas out of The Republic by Plato. The idea is that you have 3 'castes' (for want of a better term), an inner party, and outer party and a proletariat. The proletariat does not and cannot have any political aspirations as they are barred from political office and more or less barred from any knowledge of politics. This (in 1984, it was 97%) represents the vast majority of your population which is focused on production. They are your industrial and commercial workers; miners, farmers, carpenters, and even some of the professional services like doctors and lawyers.

The outer party is your civil service; the administrative and operational arm of the party. These are people who are watched very carefully by the inner party, who are your true leaders, and the true fanatics of your system.

In The Republic, Plato introduces a mechanism for selecting who should be in which caste, which is often referred to in commentaries as 'the noble lie'; in this he describes a legend where some people are of a gold class, some silver, some wood, and it is the duty of the society to sort these out correctly as the Gods have mixed these up at birth as a test of the society's worthiness to survive. What he is effectively describing is talent identification.

In your scenario however, you don't need talent; you have magic and drugs. At some point your society will realise that it's better off using talent identification prior to the administration of the brainwashing, but that's a side point. The important point is that no brainwashing, no leadership role. If the brainwashing only partially works, then perhaps your candidate is an outer party official for the rest of his or her days.

As for how other nations would react to this, the principal factor is in what the brainwashing is intended to do. In both the Republic and 1984, it's assumed you're going for an authoritarian dictatorship with militaristic airs. If your current society has all the resources it needs and has no intention of changing its diplomatic strategies or engaging in further conquest, you'd be amazed how quickly other countries will turn a blind eye, especially if there are trade deals to be made.

Internally, again so long as the intent of the brainwashing can be demonstrated to ensure that the nobility are focused on the welfare of the people, they'll be very welcoming of it. Guaranteed stability means they can focus on things other than keeping an eye on those running the country; like profits.

As for the adoption of change over time, why should your brainwashing impact that unless it's focused on stability of culture, which would always be a bad move. Culture, technology and innovation adapt to the people and their environment and with good reason. You don't want a cultural more that excessively wastes water if you find yourself in a climate change situation that makes water scarce, or even turns your farmlands into deserts. You don't want to resist science and technology when doing so will hinder your growth in productivity and industry, making you a valuable trading partner to many neighbouring nations.

Sure, introducing change slowly to nations and cats is always the smartest policy, but an insightful leader is already ahead of that curve, and brainwashing should not reduce intelligence or planning capability, otherwise its meaningless as a control mechanism for the aristocracy.

In short, brainwashing of leaders should not reduce their pragmatism, merely ensure their loyalty to the nation and its wellbeing if it is going to work. In all other respects, you can't take away the intelligence and ability to act of your leaders and preserve their ability to rule well, especially in an environment where contact with neighbours will continue and the resources available to the nation are subject to change (which is the case for any nation that has ever existed on Earth).

  • $\begingroup$ +1 for comparing nations to cats. Unless you meant castes $\endgroup$ – Garret Gang Oct 22 '18 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ @GarretGang no, definitely meant cats. I suspect that large collectives of people and cats have a lot in common behaviorally $\endgroup$ – Tim B II Oct 22 '18 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ You could use the term 'classes' or synonyms of that. $\endgroup$ – John Locke Oct 23 '18 at 22:27

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