I will likely be returning to this idea of diffuse power over the next few days - or weeks - as it is new and enchanting to me. I have browsed into similar ideas before, but this variation has shown considerable explanatory power for events that were puzzling.
Short version: no one is running the world. The 60's fantasy of trying to figure out who is behind it all - and the idea that it was the phone company was pretty funny - of tracing the military-industrial complex, blaming Nixon, or otherwise speculating who had the power to move society, is completely off reality. Even the modified version, of multinational corporations, advertising, Big Oil, Microsoft, etc is wildly exagerrated. Because people feel powerless, they speculate that Someone Else must have the power to do things. There is no danger of American fascism, or theocracy, or empire. Even if there were a determined collection of the rich and powerful who somehow decided to act cooperatively for evil, it wouldn't change things much. The types of power are too varied, and overall power simply too diffuse, for them to have much effect. Worry about something else.
As interested as I am in political events, I have long maintained that what happens at that level is almost never the strong force in making your life what it is. The births, marriages, and deaths of friends and family have far greater impact. Health, employment, finances, and how well your relationships are going all have more effect on you. Government is more like the weather. Though it affects all of us in common, it is usually in minor ways. Occasionally, a major negative event in government or weather will overwhelm all other events, but this is rare.
Even the most politically obsessed person, unless his job is dependent on an election, is not going to think of national events when asked "How's it going?" On a particularly contentious issue, or right at election time, some few might answer for a day or two "I'm really very depressed about this Supreme Court thing."
While everyone's job is affected by the government in some way, it is only rarely the determining factor in business prospects or job satisfaction.
Conservatives can get just as bent about this as liberals. Whether the Ten Commandments are posted in a courtroom, even the courtroom you work in every day, is not going to have a measurable effect on your life. Even if the worst fears of the anti-Gay Rights crowd are true, and sexual orientation is malleable at young ages and the gays are just recruiting, one Gay Pride parade is not going to change much of anything.
This is not to say that we shouldn't stand up for what we believe and try to influence events in the way that we want. In fact, it's an encouragement to do that, because there isn't some enormous force working against you to keep you down; do your bit. You do have influence, though you don't perceive it. But all the "bigs" that are running things - Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Labor, Big Tobacco, Multinational Corporations, the teacher's unions, the Religious Right, Big Media, Alternative Media, Oprah, Microsoft - they can't all be big, right? In extreme circumstances, under extreme autocracies or oligarchies, a few people do wield enormous power. That's rare. The way the US is structured, it's never going to happen. Other bad things may happen, but not that.
More to follow.