The New World Order is a phrase that became popular at the end of The Cold War. In 1989 there was hope that after 45 years of world stalemate, some leader or group could devise a way to manage world affairs that promoted peace, justice, and prosperity. Instead we’ve had endless wars, environmental degradation, climate change, poverty, the growth of dictators, racism, and anti-semitism. What the hell happened?
A feature of seemingly unresolved conflict within and between individuals is zero-sum thinking. That is, when there is a belief that there are only two, mutually exclusive decisional options. In Cold War thinking the two options were seen as capitalism or communism. There was no middle ground. The novelist Philip Roth said: “In capitalism everything goes and nothing matters. In communism nothing goes and everything matters”. People feel secure if they can put their faith in one all encompassing belief system. If one thinks everything goes and nothing matters (unmitigated lust); or nothing goes and everything matters (absolute suppression of instincts), then there is no anxiety causing conflict.
Full adherence to capitalist or communist beliefs can both be considered “Onethingisms”. Onethingisms are a defense against insecurity. Regardless of the fact that no belief system is perfect, reality is denied in order to reduce personal and societal anxiety. This sort of denial is seen in all mental illness. This why radical conspiracy theories are so seductive. They order the world in a comfortable way even if they imagine that evil forces—jews, bankers, immigrants, pedophiles—conjure awful imagines of apocalypse. At least the world makes sense. Nazism, Stalinism, and Trumpism play on the attractiveness of conspiracy theories.
The latest Onethingism is QAnon. I have met some of these conspiracy theorists. They are unable to tolerate reality as it is. And, of course today’s reality is pretty awful, especially for undereducated, poor people. They don’t have the mental strength to comprehend that their theories are just ways to reduce their fear and anxiety. Instead, they project their self-hatred onto people who they think caused their depression and anxiety. For the mentally ill, hate and aggression feel better than fear. And, their untrue beliefs become reinforced when shared with like minded others. It is a kind of mass delusion.
So, when there was a chance for a new world order, few were able to enlist what was wrong about capitalism and what was wrong about communism. So, the world needed new mutually exclusive, zero-sum onethingisms. These are represented by far right and far left conspiracy theorists. The truth of things is extraordinarily complex. To understand enough of reality is impossible when anxiety is too high. When truth is frightening, lunacy prevails in psychological and social life. Truth is less important than having a reality denying comforting Onethingism.
The new world order is psychologically and socially like the old world order. Except with overpopulation, climate change, deluded leaders, social media, and the availability of guns for individuals and nuclear weapons for nations, the new old world order is much more dangerous than the old world order. I am not hopeful. If Trump is re-elected, I imagine the human race will self-destruct in about five years.