Under the influence of ‘the 200’ | Andy Hobbs

Like every city and town, Federal Way depends on “the 200.”

The number will differ depending on a city’s size. But the number refers to core people who move and shake the city, inside and out.

The group attracts business owners, lawmakers, public servants, old money, new money and anyone with above-average public influence. The group forms naturally and grows to its necessary size. Just like Federal Way needs “the 200,” a tiny hamlet may turn to “the few” who wear several hats to meet public demand. Regardless of how many fill those vital roles, the roles will and must be filled.

The 200 stand apart as individuals. In fact, the 200 can accurately be labeled as outsiders. They share equal rights with the masses, but they have risen to the top in terms of influence or privilege.

However, influence and privilege are limited. For example, a congressman can impress an audience of business leaders or campaign supporters — and an hour later, face the bullet-ridden glares of a thousand protestors eager to vote him out of office.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, each community produces another set of 200. Not as easy to define, this group represents people too individualized for greater society to accept. This could include leaders in destitute lifestyles such as homelessness and prostitution, or individuals who challenge the status quo no matter what it is or what it costs. Like their opposites, the second set of 200 contains some who are soaked in attention and others who stay out of the limelight.

Mainstream society occupies everything in between these two poles. The first group of 200 wields broader power over society as a whole. But members of the second set of 200 lead their respective sub-societies and collectively form the fringes. A top-tier panhandler may have more influence on the direction of fellow homeless residents’ daily lives than any elected official.

The 200 are in a position to lead thoughts and decisions for the rest of us.

However, those who rise to the top 200 must still compromise their individualism in order to fit within society’s borders.

It takes courage to prevent outside influence from shaping individual thought. As a consequence, the greater the degree of individualism, the more one rejects society and therefore the less one fits into society. On a social level, a multi-billionaire CEO cannot connect with a blue-collar commoner any better than the Unabomber. Both can move and shake society, either with money or fear. The difference is that society needs the multi-billionaire’s decisions in order to move forward, but rejects the extreme views of a serial mail bomber.

It is acceptable to not belong to either group of “200.” But it is impossible not to fall under the influence of either, for better or worse. The first 200 may lead most people, but the second set of 200 also sways some minds.

The second 200 complements the first 200 in a balance mandated by the laws of nature: For every day there is a night, and for every friend there is an enemy.

It is impossible to summarize in a single column the impact of Federal Way’s own influential citizens. But we must acknowledge that two sets of these influential citizens exist, albeit in unfamiliar packages, but they exist.

The reason we have either group of 200 is because of individuals who stand apart from the pack.

The difference comes when some lead the pack, some drop out of the pack, and some form packs of their own. They all paid the price of pursuing their own paths, but with varying rewards — or side effects.

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