What I’m about to say may seem like a course reversal (which it isn’t) but I think the widespread condemnation of BP’s chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, for calling inhabitants of the Gulf “small people,” is just reinforcing the world’s opinion that Americans are a bunch of rubes.
The man is from SWEDEN. Sweden’s official language is NOT English. That means Svanberg is fluent in at least two languages. How many Americans (excluding Hispanics) can say the same? And if they know a second language, do they always speak it perfectly?
Any idiot can tell by the man’s name and accent that he isn’t from around these parts — or even England’s.
Going on and on about how awful it is to be called “small people” is just another example of our shallowness, our national obsession with form over substance. Reporters are fanning the flames of ignorance by capturing the average “American on the street” reaction.
On TV last night, I saw some Gulf coast resident still bristling from the snub say, “Well, I guess the guy isn’t of American descent.”
No, my friend. I bet we could go back just a few generations and find that YOU aren’t, either.
We all know what Svanberg meant. He’d just come out of a meeting where Obama probably mentioned “small business” many times. And when Svanberg first used the phrase “small people,” he was referring to Obama’s concern, not BP’s. See it for yourself. It’s his last comment at about 4:00.
Svanberg is the only BP exec I’ve seen whose tried to express a bit of genuine contriteness. He comes from a culture that not only believes in taking good care of its own — but does it. He’s ponied up $20 billion, not including clean-up costs, and suspended paying dividends, which is certainly going to piss off everybody else with a stake in BP.
At this point, short of plugging the leak, I think he’s pushing things in the right direction.