Try as you might, you won’t find these thought-provoking watchwords in your run-off-the-mill lexicon! Noteworthily, they form the title of Shirley Chisholm’s autobiography published half a century ago.
The first black US congresswoman. Asserting she didn’t serve to obsequiously toady to an invasive cartel of puppet masters, the inimitable non-anodynic senator stridently averred, “I didn’t come to the Congress to behave myself and stay away from explosive issues so I can keep coming back.”
Chisholm confirmed to the high and mighty, her unwavering resolve not to bow to unjustified pressure. Contemptuously frowning on validation from nefarious characters, she declared, “I’m looking for no man walking this earth for approval of what I’m doing.” Unbought and unbossed, Chisholm shared this profoundly engaging insight about her legacy; “I want to be remembered as a woman…who dared to be a catalyst of change.”
During Richard Nixon’s impeachment process, Barbara Jordan, another black congresswoman endowed with electrifying oratorical eloquence, confirmed her independence; “Today I’m an inquisitor…My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total.
And I’m not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the constitution…reason…must guide…our decision.” Jordan refused to be swayed by non-factual external views. She limned a perfect self-portrait of an unbought and unbossed soul!
In this era of global moral bankruptcy, can we emulate Chisholm and Jordan? Does fulfilment of our duties demand autonomy? Would we, with an unhypocritical sense of purpose and an unambiguous clarion voice, step up and unapologetically stick to principled convictions?
Guided by principle, employees must be unbought and unbossed, particularly where they’re beneficiaries of Government’s coffers.
We don’t owe allegiance to ‘sponsors;’ people who headhunted us or influenced the decision in our favour during the recruitment process.
Where the integrity of these prima donnas is compromised, they would pull an unsavoury quid pro quo on us. If we’re destitute of nerves of steel, we’re likely to push integrity to the backburner, thereby selling our souls for flaky crumbs.
Let’s run through disciplines for which vigilance is nonnegotiable. Where we pick the pokiest malfeasance, let’s scream like Armageddon was coming tomorrow. You know what? To do this, we don’t need to be brainiacs endowed with a stratospheric IQ.
The Judiciary. For courts to be citadels of justice, equity is a prerequisite. The Orwellian notion of, ‘Some animals are more equal than others,’ is strikingly primitive. Whether their bank balances are lardaceous or lean, all people must be treated equally.
The unbought and unbossed principle is distinctly opposed to the practice of preempting verdicts by assigning cases to judges likely to divorce their judgment from the law and credible factual evidence. If this is shunned, the concern raised by Amanda Gorman in the poem she recited with phenomenal aplomb and astounding finesse during President Biden’s inauguration, entitled, ‘The Hill We Climb,’ may fall away. Harnessing her creative acumen, she lamented, “We’ve learned that the norms and notions of what ‘just is’ isn’t always justice.”
During tests of character, when facing undue pressure from the people, the executive or the legislature, judges worth their salt would have the moral fortitude to appreciate no one is entitled to ‘facts’ that are only a figment of their super-creative imagination.
Board directors of parastatals and companies. Men and women of impeccable integrity must resist injudicious influence from rogue shareholders and vigorously guard against converting boardrooms into scumholes of improbity.
Directors must act independently of appointing authorities. Resolutions are adopted and rescinded in boardrooms. Not during undocumented hushed conversations with public and political heads of ministerial portfolios, influential delinquent majority shareholders and ignoble wealthy sponsors. Assuming we’re unbought and unbossed, the slightest deviation from this sacred norm would send a sharp frisson of chilling revulsion down our marrow!
Disciplinary committees. Committee members should introspect, ‘If this were to hit close to our genes, our kin unfairly accused, would we reach the same decision?’ Leadership often appoints hired guns to these committees.
Enfeebled individuals who wouldn’t think twice about weaseling their way into the complainants’ goodwill. This rules out independence, unless appointed members are unbought and unbossed. Motivated by Becca Lee’s view; “The surest way to lose your self-worth is by trying to find it through the eyes of others,” may we never siphon our ability to reason. Like Oscar Wilde advised, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”
Auditors. Left to their druthers, bought and bossed integrity famished auditors can unleash a Tsunami of socio-economic woes. Careers, livelihoods, families and dreams wrecked. Shareholder wealth decimated. Tax revenue slashed. Irretrievably flawed conduct!
People’s representatives. Should these individuals gallantly risk their ‘careers’ by ascending to an elevated plane far superior to self-serving organisational sentiments? Driven by principle, shouldn’t they take the cue from the recent seminal moment, when seven US Senators unequivocally broke ranks with their colleagues? Undeterred by unfavourable optics.
Unfazed by repercussions. Would they rather diffidently toe the fetishisation of their organisation’s dodgy ideals, consciously abusing the expansive goodwill bequeathed on them? Undoubtedly, such conduct would stink to high heaven!
May we never fall victim to what Chisolm bemoaned about her compatriots; “America has gone to sleep.
We’re a bunch of Rip Van Winkles. Quiescent…Where’s our energy? Where’s our spirit?” Unreservedly unbought and unbossed, let’s make it our life’s mission to eschew iniquity and tenaciously maintain ethical stability, while conscientiously treading the tightrope of integrity.