I hope this question isn't too broad to be answered and clear enough (which I have a hard time figuring out by myself).


In this Earth-like world the society is still quite retrograde in the sciences, research and social development. Some crazy mix of 1800's and 1960's, where the development of nations are too distinct and asymmetrical.

However, all around the world there are strange millennia-old "artifacts" that are actually space ship wreckage that people mostly ignore because they are either completely useless and/or just became one with nature to be indistinguishable from the landscape.

A small village with (not so united) neighborhoods that were being assaulted by military forces to conscript their children to a war that they don't care about (thus, their anti-military mindset) ended up finding a space ship wreck in operational conditions, so they use this opportunity to just fly away from everything. Of course, initially they were reluctant, but after a more violent approach by the army (literally invading and burning their homes, accusing them of treason), they quickly changed their minds.

After that, they found a myriad of problems with the flying space ship (that has built-in manuals/tutorials on how to fix and/or understand the technology) and myriads of other problems with these nations at war. After all, who wouldn't kill for anti-gravity technology? Who wouldn't want the chance to take the upper hand on the war, economy and science?

However, the problem is that they would need to develop a more strict set of rules, discipline, hierarchy and coordination to operate the ship at its full potential and have some chance of survival. An ex-almost-soldier that received some training on the military is trying to convince the crew/villagers to create these strict set of rules that are basically military conduct.

As you can guess, they didn't received that approach with open arms, but they understand that they can't just ignore the dire situation they are in.

The Question:

Taking into consideration their anti-military and anti-war mindset (they will fight for self-defense), what social/psychological strategies could be used for keeping this anti-military crew as close to military doctrine as possible?

For example, in a military fleet, the admiral tells an order and the soldier obeys unless such order is insane or just absurd (like shooting at unarmed civilians, for example);

But in a crew that is basically crossing the line between family and military life, the crewmate/cousin that was designated as the "chief of weapons system" can just complain that "they have an headache", that "they didn't sleep enough" and just start beefing with the self-made admiral.

In the military, if such thing happens, the admiral would just expel the person and replace them with the second in command, and the complainer would receive severe disciplinary action.

In a crew made up of friends and family, how one would do that? They aren't there on their own will and accord, they don't have anywhere to go and no one else to replace this person.

How to keep these people working professionally and with discipline?

One could see this the same way as keeping discipline/professionalism in a crew made up of militia and/or pirates, bandits and so on.

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    $\begingroup$ Whatever psychological strategies the military uses of course. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jan 2, 2023 at 13:39
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    $\begingroup$ Ships have never ever been democracies. On a ship, be it ancient, medieval or modern, be it a merchantman, a man'o'war or a pirate ship, there is a strict and rigid hierarchy; or else the ship gets shipwrecked in short order. I do not understand the question at all. If they can successfully run the ship, this means that they have already grasped the idea of discipline and hierarchy. And no, "the military", whatever this means, are not the only ones who value discipline and hierarchy. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 2, 2023 at 14:21
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    $\begingroup$ Most very large commercial ships operate in a hierarchical structure much like the navy. On the open (international) waters, the captain is the law, the authority, and the ultimate commander. The crew all fall in line. $\endgroup$ Jan 2, 2023 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ VTC: Too Story-based, Too Opinion-Based, you're basically asking us to invent a significant part of your plot and, per the help center, we help build worlds, not tell stories. Your question is dependent on narrative necessity. Finally, per the help center, questions that result in answers all having equal value are prohibited (in this case, no one answer is any better than another). There's no way to judge which is better: violence due to desperation vs. diplomacy. After all, even small communities have rules. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jan 2, 2023 at 18:46
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    $\begingroup$ If "they will fight for self-defense", then they DON'T have an "anti-military" or "anti-war" mindset. "Doctrine" is very different from "discipline". Conduct and discipline in well-run military organizations is about dependability, stress management, and effective coordination of force, not about shouting and preening. Lots of other examples in this question show a reliance upon (sigh) tropes rather than research. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jan 3, 2023 at 5:24

4 Answers 4


The same thing that makes people cooperate in all tribes; family or a mix of families, for the last 20,000 years. Social rewards and social punishments.

Our emotions evolved in tribes, as the rules of operation before we had much rationality. Friendship, Comraderie, Love, Admiration, Respect, Humor and so on, the "positive" emotions, are the positive reinforcement for those that are contributing to the tribe, and even contributing more than their fair share, or using their superior skills to benefit the tribe, whether it be in hunting, planning, analysis, or medical care, invention, a talent for repair.

The "negative" emotions are negative reinforcement: Resentment, Anger, Hatred, Jealousy, Disdain, Vindictiveness, being Uncooperative, etc. They are the punishment for the slackers, for the greedy that won't share, for the liars and self-promoters, for the skilled taking more than their fair share and flaunting it.

These emotions are so powerful that even today people go to battle and die for their tribe, risk their lives to save not just their own children, but even the infants and children of strangers they see as "in their tribe".

They are all designed to increase "synergy", the notion that the tribe can do more as a team, than the sum of what they can do alone. It is far less effort per person and faster and more effective for all families to contribute to building a protective fence around the entire village, than it would be for each family to build a protective fence around just their own hut.

As for your scenario, there is mutual agreement, and mutual ascension to leadership by the best and wisest strategists, to engage in whatever level of precision and discipline it takes to run the ship.

The people do it out of their duty to their family, out of pride at not being disdained as a coward, the same reasons they went to war half naked with a sharp stick in one hand and a rock in the other.

It is the same reason in the modern world we have thousands of instances of a man in a bar pulling out a gun and committing murder, and ruining his life, if he gets humiliated by some bully. His standing in his tribe, his little social circle in that bar, is (emotionally) more important than his life.

It is why a few hundred years ago, in civilized society, a man challenged to a duel would fight it, and risk death, because we had lived in an "honor" society for centuries, and personal male honor meant everything -- it meant your job, your business, your own family would shun you if you proved a coward.

You do your job on the ship, because that is what makes you valuable to your village, to your family, and your honor and standing in that village is everything. The honor society is still a significant driver in the modern world, in small towns where everybody knows everyone. People are still raised that way, and still risk their lives because that is what honor demands.

And almost certainly in your family group scenario, it would be the same.

Respect your elders!

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    $\begingroup$ I was going to give a similar answer so I'm glad someone said this ;) I would add that this is called a "kinship society" and is a popular term in pop psychology. Specifically Asians are known for implementing a hierarchy based on rulers/elders, siblings/equals, etc. I highly suggest that the OP check out the Wikipedia pages for "Chinese kinship" and "filial piety." $\endgroup$ Jan 2, 2023 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ Or just click on these links... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_kinship en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filial_piety $\endgroup$ Jan 2, 2023 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ @TheresaKay Sounds true. But that social model does not apply to just kin, and it has been around longer than China. Like I said, it is a result of evolution from before we even had modern rational brains.We can see it in apes. $\endgroup$
    – Amadeus
    Jan 2, 2023 at 21:17

You are ignoring how flexible human minds are. When presented with life threatening situations, people can and do change their attitudes about structure and discipline. For example, we can look at how pirate ships operated in the past. Many started with rebellious groups, but in order to survive, they accepted command and discipline. This question then becomes an issue of how to educate people about the survival value of such discipline.

Now, the group you present might allow for the difference between "fast response issues" and "slow response issues". Fast response issues require immediate obey and action. Slow response issues might be handled in a group meeting instead of hierarchical form. These group meetings can help transfer the information and attitudes needed for survival in those "fast response" times. Commanders might be elected in those meetings.

Some of this change is happening in modern military. It is possible to find old time military people who were used to only a hierarchical structure complaining about young people in a modern military needing everything explained to them. It used to be you gave an order and they obeyed. Now, the old timers complain that many younger soldiers want the situation explained to them and be shown how this action fit into the whole plan.


They do not dislike the doctrine. They dislike the military.

For example: There is a stereotype of Germans being organized. Here is a German company bragging about that on their website.


German business culture is marked by organisation, planning and perfectionism. Business relations are very formal, and they reflect the German values of order, privacy and punctuality. A strict vertical hierarchy is established and respected, and the decision-making process is held at the top of the company. The Germans respect authority and subordinates rarely contradict or criticise their superiors publicly.

I might admire that. This German company hopes that I do. I might try to emulate it. Maybe I have been for a long time. These Germans are not bragging about being Nazis. They are bragging about being Germans. When I read English language military history I see admiration for German organization and military men. At the same time these sources have plenty of contempt and derision for German political leaders who decided how to use the German military in the two world wars.

Your people come from the same cultural background as their military. The organization of the military make sense to them - whatever those ways are that you want to use for your story. Your people disagree with their rulers and the stupid war that their rulers are using the military to wage. They dislike the individuals - bullies and sadists - who are heading up military operations in their area. You can hint at this by showing how your people go about offering resistance to the military incursions in an organized way.


What you're describing is pretty much how gaming guilds work. You have a bunch of players, who have played together for years, trying to play a game that may call for military style discipline, but which most gamers are definitely not going to do. We need meat but the hunter doesn't feel like hunting right now. He could get kicked out of the guild but this causes drama that may be more trouble than it's worth. Someone else will end up doing it (even if they aren't good at it) until the hunter feels like hunting again. People will usually find small ways to snub the slackers, and make digs at them in conversation, which is really a low-key attempt to give them incentive to get back on the job.

Emergencies aren't really the problem, though. People tend to come together for emergencies and leaders will emerge. There's a hole in the side of the ship, we're all going to die, it is unlikely that the damage control team "doesn't feel like" doing damage control right now. They'll do it. If anything, you might have to yell at other people to get out of the way (and back to their job) as they try to "help".

Non-emergencies are a bigger problem. The military conducts drills to train for situations. People in your world may just not feel like doing that and no amount of prodding can make them. They may just never get up to military standards. Boring jobs might not get done.

Kinda depends on the leader though. If the leader wants to be a ruthless despot, and has the muscle to back them up, and the only choices are "comply" or "rebel / die / risk death" then you can get military discipline at the crack of a whip. But if "the muscle" of the group wants to be libertarian then you just won't get military discipline. In that case, though, a smart leader will just adapt the strategy to fit the tool, since he can't change the tool.

e.g. what you really want for a raid is crack military discipline, drop off alpha team at 0400, coordinate a precise attack and flanking maneuver at 0600, be out before reinforcements can arrive by 0630. But if you don't have military discipline, then don't make military strategies. Keep plans simple, with loose requirements, and never get into a fair fight.


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