So, you've decided to control a large group of people through government power?
'Government' is hard to define, but in my opinion, it is the monopoly on violence. If other groups begin to have the ability to use violence without consequence, you are no longer in complete governmental control. With a monopoly on violence, you do have a great influence on people, people want to avoid death and pain. And if you manage to get a group of people to love you as a country, then that's even more power, but there are still two things that stand in your way. Two things between you and complete control of the individual.
Religion and family.
Family is the most base care, religion the next, and government the least powerful of the three.
Because in the end, people care about getting killed, but they care about God and their eternal soul more, and people care about God and whether they go to hell, but in the end, most people naturally care about their spouse, children, and siblings more than that.
So, if you order them to do something, they may not do it because their religion commands them not to. Or they may see you doing something that goes against their religion and rebel against you.
So, if you want to control a group of people, you will want to do something about religion. Now, you have no lack of examples. The simplest way to do this is state-sanctioned religion. Just making sure the leaders of that religion will work with you. You can simply usurp outside religion and make yourself religion, claim Godhood, demigodhood, and being a prophet. England got creative and had a mix of both, divine right + working with the catholic church.
Now, you might not want to work with a pesky religion! Easy, destroy it completely! This is a common strategy of communist/fascist countries such as Communist China, Nazi Germany, and North Korea.
Many of them started with some attempt to use religion, such as Nazi Germany's use of bible verses to justify their actions, but eventually, they found a hard time keeping even that up because anyone who has even just skimmed the bible realizes that the world domination and killing all jews is not cool with Christ.
So, Nazi Germany took to destroying religion, but in the end, this can not be completed. Most societies and humans need some type of religion or something to worship. So, when you take away God, you leave a vacuum, one that can be filled by strange superstitions. (Like how the nazis thought the earth was an inverted globe) intently or accidentally many governments will take to filling that vacuum with their leaders. Who decided what is moral? The law! Where do they get this authority? Because our leader is the most perfect being currently in existence.
Just look at North Korea, they literally believe Kim Jong Il could read their mind and was born in a stable under a star. (Can we have copyright claim them for that?)
Or look at China, where Mao is literally responsible for more deaths than Hitler, or anyone in recorded history, but the man still has statues everywhere and the people think he was amazing and 'saved them.'
The power of faith!
Congrats! You've taken control of religion and government, now only one thing stands in your way to complete power. Love! Or, loves cultural manifestation, families!
Because if people are left to their own devices they will care more about their child or wife or husband than any threat of death, leader, or idea of God. This is a base evolutionary and spiritual draw. You will protect your next of kin. Your love for your family will be more powerful than your love for God or the state.
So, if you want to control them, you have to control the family. This one has been the hardest for government to take control of throughout history. Now, the power of the family has been capitalized, royal families, marrying children off for political bonds, etc. Capitalizing on how the familial bond decreased the likely hood of betrayal. (Of course, it does not get rid of it entirely.)
Now, many groups have used propaganda to make your family work for them. Fight for your mother! Fight for your sweetheart! The enemy wants to r*pe your sister. Kill them unthinkingly!
This works great to an extent, and many groups stop here.
But you have come here for complete control, so, we will dive into the attempts at complete control of the family.
Now, you could just destroy the family and the idea of love. Now, messing with how a culture sees sex is a great way to do this, since sex, is literally where all family comes from.
1984 explores this idea a lot.
Strategies for messing with sex include:
Detaching it from love, making it simply an animal joy, and but not one about love, therefore the bond between husband and wife, child and parent is no longer as sacred.
Or, make sex completely shameful. Terrible. Disgusting. Only really an ends to a means. This often does the previously mentioned strategy, because people will always feel sexual things, but now they feel shame for those feelings. Therefore they are more likely to cheat on or hurt their spouse. Doing this destroys its ability to be an activity and bonding experience between two people who love each other.
Or, making it a one-sided joy. Only the male side matters, females are just a way to get. More discussions of sexism to come.
Another strategy is to take control of the children. Using services like public school to feed children with propaganda. Therefore they will report their parents if they are breaking the state rules. Breed disrespect and distrust.
With no respect or trust, the bond between parent and child is no longer strong, and therefore the bond between spouses is extremely weakend as well.
Speaking of distrust and disrespect, we can plant that in spouses too! One way is to have a strong imbalance of power. Use gender norms and roles to give the wife no voice, and thereby take away the husband's ability to feel any feeling in front of his wife besides anger and lust. A healthy spousal relationship is extremely powerful and dangerous to the government. If a general comes home from work, feeling really frustrated, and the wife helps him work through that and see he should not be angry at the people group he is being ordered to destroy, but maybe the people ordering him to do that. You have literally just silenced an entire half of the country by using the other half. It's terrible for both!
This strategy was widely used and is still used in communist china.
So, if you want complete control over a state, religion can be your enemy or your friend, depending on how you play your hand, but if you want utter complete control, the family will always be your enemy. People will always die for their families before their state. For their true love or child. So, your goal as soon as you gain control of religion and government should be to destroy the idea of family and love. Because any love stronger than love for state is dangerous to you.
Thanks for reading my rambly thoughts. This has been bumping around my head for a while. Good luck my fellow totalitarian governments!