The King Of Chairs- A short story about Nonviolent Struggle!
February 21, 2010 1 Comment
Six students sat on the available chairs, three of them were the sons of the professor’s brother, two of them were the professor’s own sons, and two students were chosen by the professor himself when all students entered the classroom.
The students were amazed and wondered why the professor acted this way.
Days passed and students attending classes every day were increasingly suffering the same problem, which was that no seats were available but for six selected students, and if anybody else dared to sit in one of the remaining chairs, he feared the threat of detention and expulsion as a punishment for his act.
One day, a student told the professor respectfully and humbly: “Sir we come every day from far regions in order to learn from you what your highness allows us to learn. But every day, we suffer from standing for more than six consecutive hours having no chair to sit in. However, we kindly ask you to have mercy on us and give my five friends who also come from far regions and me few chairs to sit in.
The professor decided to give those six students only two chairs, under the pretext that he could not alienate the resources of the class he is responsible for before the administration, which requests him to be careful and precise concerning the budget, because the school does not bear the cost of cleaning the dust, which might pile up on the borders of chairs if each student were given a chair. The six students agreed to use one of the chairs alternately, while the one who talked on behalf of the group and achieved this goal obtained a permanent chair, because he must be satisfied in order to assume his leadership tasks to the maximum.
The relative success of the group of the six encouraged the other students who started to gather in groups, selected names to their groups, and asked the professor to give them “the honor of becoming his humble servants, the protectors of his class”, as a student named “Behim”, announced once.
At that point, the class split into groups: “the six green” and “the six blue” group, whereas the remaining twelve students did not join any group, under any name.
The professor had full control on the class because he established a board comprising the leaders of the groups, in addition to the five selected students having the privilege of retaining a permanent seat. The board was theoretically accessible to the rest of the students as an award for the most disciplined and obedient in class. However, the decision was always in his hand, for he had the majority of the Board’s votes, and he controlled the latter.
From time to time, one of the remaining students disapproved the professor reclaiming his right to have a chair. But whenever such an incident occurred, the professor expelled that student from school as a punishment for his actions which harm “the stability and calmness” of the class, and destabilize the Learning process. Therefore, everyone learned not to claim a seat anymore and they admitted their failure in obtaining a chair.
Years passed, and the situation remained the same. Some students left the school and some others came, but the professor remained in his post, keeping the class under control with the help of six new privileged students and new group leaders each year. From time to time, he threatened one of the student groups to retrieve their chairs if they kept talking while he is explaining the lessons. But, whenever he saw a student of a certain group exchanging letters with another student from another group, he became indulgent towards them, creating an intended chaos so that everyone refers to him asking him to improve the situation and restore “the stability and calmness” in the classroom.
One day, a student named “Aloush” entered that school after he reached the first secondary grade. But the professor was already sharing his successful ways in teaching with other teachers, so that all classes adopt the same way and appoint him director of the school, as an award for advancing other schools, and bringing continuous success to his school, its teachers and students.
“Aloush” came from a school that adopted a different method in education, and he had been taking classes teaching the rights of students, so he was surprised of what was happening in that school. And when he found out that he can not sit on a chair, he decided to reclaim his right to have a seat.
At first, he tried to merge into one of the groups to become its leader and to gain a permanent seat. But he was surprised to see that all other students were thinking the same way and having the same ambition. And after several unsuccessful attempts, he managed to abandon that dream and to save some of his strength, which he did not want to loose in his fighting over the leadership. Meanwhile, he met “Mimi” who told him how the story began. “Mimi” was a smart girl but she did not know anything about the students’ rights, because she did not learn about them at her school. She listened to “Aloush” and asked him for more explanation about some concepts from time to time. Therefore “Aloush” told her that the school must make an agreement with the Ministry of Education. This kind of agreements mention a lot about students’ rights, and it is necessary that each school amend its regulations to comply with the agreements made with the Ministry of Education. After getting annoyed of thinking, “Aloush” decided to put banana husk to the professor so that he falls down when he steps on it, hits his head, and dies, thus, he will defeat evil. But he did not know that the scourge was spreading, and that the professor had been making all the teachers like him. Quickly, the other professors elected a new director who was crueler. The professor kept investigating until he found out who made that conspiracy. He knew that “Aloush” was responsible for it, so he inflicted the worst punishment on him, expulsed him from school, and handed him over to the police who transferred him to the district governor, who sentenced him to death and executed him.
The new Administration kept on maintaining “the stability and calmness” of the classrooms and the rationing in the use of school resources to maintain the “interest of students”. What “Aloush” did with “Mimi” was flaming the desire of knowledge and enhancing the ability to search for that knowledge.
“Mimi” tried to help “Aloush”, but she knew that his crime was that he gave the appropriate pretext to the administration to expel him and transfer him to a fake trial, where he was submitted to execution, eliminating thus the phenomenon that “Aloush” created, and what he endured because of students’ rights, to silence any voice that could support “Aloush”.
Mimi knew that what “Aloush” asked for was rightful. But she also knew that the manner “Aloush” adopted to approach the situation was undoubtedly a looser style, especially that the administration made a contract with a special protection company after “Aloush’s” incident to secure and protect the professors from “perverts” like “Aloush”, i.e. those who want to harm “the stability and calmness” of the school.
She had one solution out of two: either to realize the benefits she can get from her participation in this system, or to remain without a chair while taking studies and be thankful because she is at least lucky to have the opportunity to learn. But this system could not satisfy everyone for it can absorb a limited number of beneficiaries.
However, “Mimi” was certain that there were other solutions, which can help her to get out of that situation.
“Mimi” tried to find a solution for the problem, a solution with high success rate and little failure rate, a solution that will not harm her or her cause if she adopted it, the way “Aloush” did. And after many troubles and efforts, “Mimi” found the solution!
The authority of the Professor is due to student’s submission. Therefore, if the students refused to obey him and his educational system, they will deprive him of his legitimacy, especially that the main pretext for the professor’s legitimacy is the students’ interest. His legitimacy is provided to him by the support and submission of the heads of groups and affiliates.
But how can she start adopting this solution, if she was the only one to refuse obedience? She will not be able to deprive him of his legitimacy, but she will give the administration an excuse to expel her.
First, Mimi started searching in the internal laws of the school, for if she could find any text or article to assert her right to have a chair, it would be easier for her to claim this right. Her main task was to look for a legal support especially that the professor always said: “I abide by the law.”
After searching in the internal laws, she had to search in the agreements made between the school and the Ministry of Education because the school is obliged to implement them.
If she finds any text that supports her cause, she will be able to resort to the Ministry of Education and submit her case to the officials working there, who will exercise pressure on the school to implement the agreements, especially that the school has basic interests with the Ministry of Education, as it needs its authorization to keep working, and to prevent other schools from claiming to close it under the pretext that it is violating the agreements, hoping to obtain its students, to increase their income.
If she finds that text, she could file a petition and ask students to sign it asking for what she wants, mentioning the text proving her rights.
After a long and tough search, she found out that the second and seventh article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantee equality among human beings and non-discrimination on grounds of color, religion, sex, political affiliation or ethnicity, opinion, or relation. She deduced as well that Professor is practicing discrimination towards students as some are having chairs and others are not. And according to article 5 of the said Declaration: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. “Mimi” considered that standing for six hours to attend the class is a cruel and brutal treatment, which is clearly, frankly and firmly forbidden by virtue of that Convention.
During her search, she also found many of the rights enumerated in the Declaration, for example, Article 19, which says: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. Consequently, she has the right to express her point of view freely in front of her professor, she can publish what she had learned, and distribute leaflets without the permission of the schools board.
And according to article 20: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association”. Thus, she can establish a special group without the approval of the teachers and can participate in any peaceful gathering in the form of a demonstration, picketing, or other, which do not need approval because it is a fundamental right.
Therefore, she acquired this right since birth, just like the right to breathe and live.
Mimi was surprised to know how many rights she has and how come she was not conscious of those rights before, and said to herself: “now I know that everyone in the class keeps silence because they are not conscious of their rights”. But, if one did not know his rights, how is he going to reclaim them? Thus, the key to get rid of the dictatorship of the professor is to inform students about their rights.
However, taking knowledge of these rights is not enough. “Aloush”, for example, knew his rights but he did not know what the best way to claim them is. Therefore, students must also know how to reclaim those rights. In one occasion, “Mimi” read the following sentence: “obedience and resistance are virtues of the citizen, the first helps him achieving order and the second help him achieving freedom.” She knew that she must resist and rebel against injustice, in order to restore her rights that are violated unfairly and unjustly.
But she will not be able to put banana husks for everyone, and this tool will be a pretext to reject her and her movement.
After many searches, she was able to access to some books that talk about the experiences of other students who adopted a set of methods, which they called nonviolent struggle, to achieve their goals. She was surprised by the large number of successes that such methods achieved throughout history, by the simplicity of concepts and foundations based on refusal of cooperation between students and their professors, and by depriving those professors of their legitimacy, based on the admission of students and their submission. She knew then that her first enemy is subservience and acquiescence, and decided to struggle and resist.
Her believes in Nonviolent struggle increased when she read in one book the following sentence: “When we talk about absurdness of adopting violence in the face of injustice, we do not mean that the alternative is to live with this injustice from the point of “turning the other cheek”. What we mean is the real planned confrontation, which takes place when the subdued meet together, declare their rejection of the situation of injustice, plan to get rid of the situation of aggrieve, and to establish a situation of justice and freedom to everyone.”
Mimi did not find a better sentence to consider as a goal. Hence, she decided to work first on assembling the oppressed persons, to teach them their rights, and then teach them how to face the suppressing authority in the best possible way, thus ensuring that democratic authority comes after this authority. She decided to work as well on protecting the law and making sure it is implemented equally on everybody, in order to eliminate the dictatorship of the “King of chairs” (a name chosen By “Mimi” for the professor, adopting a technique of nonviolent struggle), which is categorized under Nonviolent harassment, a psychological harassment, made through the exercise of individual or collective pressure on one or more of the conflict subjects. Another technique of nonviolent struggle is “prosecution”, which is summarized by following the opponent and supporting him all the time and “Taunting officials” that are mocking from them or insulting them.
This method aims at influencing students’ opinion concerning Professor “King of chairs”, in order to show his real face, as a person who does not care about the interests or the needs of the students, but only about chairs, which could eventually lead to increasing the number of those who reject his authority as director of the school and its unjust educational system.
“Mimi” tried to find help, but she could not do any work that may draw attention to her, especially that she is still alone and she will not be able to fight the school at this time. So she printed posters and stuck them in the bathrooms making sure that no one is seeing her. The posters mentioned the following: “The Scholastic resistance will continue opposing by its full strength the “King of chairs”, Yes to Nonviolence! Yes to Students’ rights!” and they showed the picture of a chair covered of blood, and ornamented by a crown.
This sentence aims at informing students that someone is working to change the current situation, and prepare them to join the ranks of student resistance in the future and to seek change. Mimi wrote the notice using the plural form to give the readers an impression that there is a group working, which encourages more people to join the resistance and contribute in annoying the “king of chairs”, and making him worry.
Because if a whole group is working against him, it would cause him a major problem that is more serious than the one he would face if only one person was working to achieve that goal. The poster also stated that the group is Nonviolent and supports the rights of students. Therefore, the “king of chairs” will not be able to hit the ranks of the resistance, as he did with “Aloush”.
But “Mimi” did not know that many students wanted to eliminate the rule of the “King of chairs”, and that these posters will encourage them to carry out similar activities.
In less than a week, the toilets became filled with posters for other groups speaking against the “King of chairs”. But what impressed “Mimi” was that all posters were qualifying the professor as the “King of chairs” and other professors as the “collaterals of king of chairs”. However, one of those groups, calling itself the “hell of administrations”, appealed all students to throw banana husks on the floors so the professors fall, without caring about what could happen to the students if one of them fell because of the husks. They didn’t even think about the cost of bananas, especially that students will not be able to provide money to buy them, and that such an act would undoubtedly give the “king of chairs” an excuse to tighten repression and security in the school under the pretext of protecting students from banana husks.
Mimi knew that she must act immediately to stop the incoming wave of violence. She was aware that she will not be able to work secretly and that she must face “King of chairs” armed with her rights, which are stipulated by virtue of the agreements and laws.
She contacted three students and trained them on the methods of Nonviolence and together they attended many training courses about human rights and students’ rights. Therefore, they formed a large network of local and international civil society and human rights activists who promised to support their cause. The “Students Nonviolent Resistance” group, as they named it, started a research to gather all the legal articles supporting their position. Afterwards, they printed them in a publication mentioning their stand on the “administration’s hell” group, describing the “SNR” “explicit and clear rejection of the methods that encourage violence”, and asking the administration to distribute chairs to all students because this is their right.
The student group “SNR” distributed those brochures in the school. Consequently, almost every professor criticized their work qualifying it as a “provocative attack” that is unjustified at all. “Fouad”, was the student activist in “SNR” responsible for Media issues because of his excellent skills in persuasion. And when he was summoned to the Director’s office with the rest of the “SNR” group, he said that they did not do anything wrong and what proves that is all those laws and covenants, which stipulate that they have the right to do what they did. He added that the Assistant of the Minister of Education, who hosted them two days ago, assured them that they have the right to claim a chair, as long as they do not engage in violence in order to achieve their demands.
The group saw the signs of concern appearing on the face of “king of chairs” when he heard the name of the Assistant of the Minister of Education, so he let the students go, stressing that he does not want such arousal again or else, he will expel them from school.
Contrary to what was expected, the majority of students didn’t show support to the “SNR” group when they returned to classes. And one of the students, who was also the head of the “green group”, insulted “Mimi” expecting that she will react with violence which he can take as a pretext to protest against her to cause her expulsion.
The majority of groups feared for their earnings, and that was encouraged by the group leaders who distributed leaflets accusing the “SNR” of working for a competent school and of wanting to eliminate the “freedom, peace and stability” that the school enjoys to serve the Foreigners’ interests.
But some students considered the achievements of the “SNR” as a victory, and even the “administration’s hell” group sent an envoy to speak with the “SNR”. “SNR” started to meet with other resistance groups and to organize educational and training sessions, so they were able to establish a network of fifty students who realize their rights and know how to defend them.
One day after the first operation that the “SNR” launched, the administration summoned the activists and threatened them of expulsion from school and of not letting them succeed in their academic year. This procedure had a great impact on the team’s morale, and this resulted from the departure of some student from the group, even that some of the others began to cooperate with the “king of chairs” by reporting what the “Federation of Students’ Resistance” is planning.
However, the group had a strong organizational structure comprising a reliable and strong communication network, which enabled them to continue working very seriously. Mimi contacted the federation’s leaders, and invited them to her house to convene a closed meeting that lasted two days during which they have put a detailed strategic plan that could allow them to eliminate the dictatorship of the “King of chairs”. The plan was composed of three sections, each of them consisting of four chapters. And each chapter was divided into five parts. They developed their plan in a manner that can allow them to publish each section at a time, to keep the secrecy of the plans.
Section I of the plan was related to the organization and distribution of tasks taking into consideration the principle of: “the appropriate person in the right post”, without forgetting to prepare alternatives for all leaders to take over leadership in emergency cases. Section II spoke of the sequence of events, which are supposed to pave the way for victory. Finally, section III spoke of the plan to be adopted after victory and of the appropriate way to exploit this victory and ensure the establishment of a democratic authority after the “king of chairs”.
Monday night came, and the responsible for each assignment met the rest of individuals and informed them about the first section of the plan. New leaflets were printed on behalf of the Federation calls for all students to assemble outside the school on Wednesday to express their solidarity and support for the demand of the Federation. Large banners were made, demanding the right of the student for having a chair and their slogan was “A chair for each student”. Speeches insisted on the right of students to sit during the courses, and pointed out the privileges attributed to some students, not to all.
The federation managed to provide simple media coverage, that soon became a national news that brought a lot of media’s attention, assuring a huge media coverage for the Federation, which enabled them to get the support of other students from other schools.
The administration of the “king of chairs” did not put an end to the harassment of students but increased pressures along with every success the Federation witnessed. The officials expelled four students including “Mimi”, as they considered them the leaders of these movements. But the “king of chairs” and his allies did not expect that the presence of those four students did not have a significant effect because the Federation had already taken into account that some leaders may be arrested and it appointed alternatives to assume their responsibilities.
Meanwhile, the students founded a black market for the sale of refreshments substitute for the store located in the school, and that was similar to what used to happen during wars and conflicts, where people built alternative markets, or the so-called black market, which are particularly active during war or under occupation.
The seven students decided that if police attacked them, they would do what one American who opposed the war did, an action that was known as complete refusal of cooperation by the individual.
That activist’s name was “Bishop”, and he initially cooperated with the alternative military service program that has been developed for people who refused to join the war. The program was the civil public service program. But over time, “Bishop” concluded that his beliefs made him cease cooperation in all its forms. After refusing to continue working according to the civil public service program, he was arrested on September 9, 1944. During his stay in the federal prison in Milan, Michigan, he refused to eat, stand or wear clothes, and he was replenished by force through a pipeline. He was submitted to trial after spending eighty-six days in jail on charges of leaving the civil public service program’s camp. But the judge decided to release him without bail, until the issuance of a final judgment. Bishop refused to attend the trial so he was rearrested in Philadelphia on February 20, 1945. He refused to move and he refrained from moving during the trial. He said to the Commissioner of the federal government that will not cooperate in any way, because war is evil and that he does not want to get involved in it at all. His tranquil body was transferred to the courtroom in Philadelphia on February 26, and returned after the conclusion of the trial to the city of Grand Rapids, where he was sentenced to a pay a fine and get imprisoned for four years. “Bishop” continued complete personal non-cooperation. Finally, and after spending 144 days in prison, he was released without making any honor promises, and without signing any pledge under the special conditional release plan released under the Executive Order 8641. However, he had to work in a cooperative farm in the State of Georgia. When he refused to do so, he was arrested again on the first of September in the city of Berea in Ohio, and was charged with violation of the promises of honor. Once again, he refused to move, resumed personal non-cooperation and was returned to Milan’s prison to comply with his sentence. After “Bishop” consistently refused to do anything, and as a result of numerous press articles supporting him, the Ministry of Justice ordered to release him on March 12, 1946, unconditionally and without signing any pledge. He returned to his home in Hamilton-Alabama, ending thus 193 days, which he spent in total non-cooperation.
The cause of the seven students and the right to have a chair is still continuously facing the “king of chairs” who still enjoys all his privileges, and continues to move from one place to another after each loss. But he always reinforces himself and comes back again and again threatening to take the chairs and denying our right to sit down and learn.
If you want to fight the “king of chairs” and all the similar kings, the thieves of rights and violators of law, print out your own posters, start your own campaign, and be certain that many people around you want to work with you and support you to restore rights and put an end to injustice!