They march around saying the same basic things over again. They have few, if any, original or creative thoughts. They don’t ever show faces–only the plastic and metal that constitutes their helmets and armor. It makes us write them off as a mass of drones. Just wind them up and watch them go…
The fact of the matter is, however, that the combat-and-labor battalions of First Order troops are not volunteers. They are individual, unrelated humans. All plucked directly from the vine.
What’s my point? My point is that all of them are brainwashed victims of the First Order. But, more importantly, they are all child soldiers.
While they may not be gunning down families while still aging in single-digits like real-world child soldiers, they are still taken from their families and forced into a conditioning program and taught to kill. And to not care. And to do what they are told–without question.
The helmets and armor make it easy to compartmentalize and dehumanize the troopers. This is used both by the First Order to mechanize and streamline their forces, but also as a cinematic tactic that is used to reduce the loss of “human” life and make the film less bloody and violent for audiences. But the fact remains that since Finn, or as he was known by the First Order — FN2187 — is living proof that stormtroopers and other First Order forces are capable of moral change and therefore should be considered potential converts.
We can also assume that the First Order’s methods of conditioning and control includes some sort of pharmaceuticals and/or narcotics to medicate and manage behavior as well as create a need to satisfy cravings that can only be met by those in charge. In the real world, child soldiers of Sierra Leone and the DRC were controlled with highs and lows generated by administering heroin and morphine to maintain dependence and obedience for their next dose. The Star Wars Universe would have more sophisticated medicines, but would still have the manipulative characteristics that the First Order would have developed them for.
This is really just the tip of the iceberg. The ranks of the Resistance are too thin to kill off the legions of enslaved warriors that are obedient to the First Order. A revolution from within is by far their best hope for victory. Otherwise, the Dark Side will have destroyed even more lives and will have used the good guys to pull the trigger.