National calls for punishment of executives who received bonuses gave way this week to even more ridiculous accusations on the international front. Brazil’s President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (known simply as Lula), raised the bar last week when he threw the blame for the recent economic crisis onto the shoulders of “white people with blue eyes.”
Per Lula’s indefensible logic, it was the greed of the blue-eyed and their lies that led us all into this crisis. Lula even goes so far as to say that he, the president of Brazil, does not know a single black or indigenous banker, and that he is going to press this as a central issue at the G20 meetings.
Apparently Lula believes that in between discussions of the super-national nature of regulations and coherency of social spending, world leaders should delve into economic forensics. Thanks to Lula’s logic, at least it should be easy to identify those guilty. Based on his accusations, Germany, Canada and France will be held unilaterally guilty, as they are the only G20 member states currently under the leadership of blue-eyed politicians.
The fact that not a single Canadian bank has failed as of press time seems to have evaded Lula. We in the U.S. fortunately escaped this list due to our pre-emptive switch to brown-eyed leadership mid crisis. Had we as a nation chosen to elect the blue-eyed McCain instead of Obama, we would not have been so lucky.
Of course, it might be time for the blue-eyed folk to have their fair share of discrimination. We can punish them for their greed and sins by leaving them out in the sun without sunscreen and pouring chlorine on their (most-likely blonde) hair. On the other hand, we could also use rational thought and establish that the disproportionate number of blue-eyed people in banking is just a correlation, and does not actually imply any sort of nefarious scheme on the part of the Nordic to end the world. But then we are left with fewer pointless and distracting side-arguments to help world leaders avoid productive work.
The blatant racism of Lula’s statements is an unacceptable insult not only to the demographic group he describes, but also to all those he leaves out. While it is easy to look at his statements as a compliment to the Hispanic, African, Asian or other brown-eyed financiers, it is backhanded at the very least. Lula does not ascribe competence to brown-eyed bankers, but instead accuses them of lacking influence in their field, placing them entirely at the mercy of the professional decisions of their blue-eyed counterparts.
The G20 summit should be an opportunity for cohesion and unity in the face of crisis. Unfortunately, Lula’s comments before the start of the conference foreshadowed weeks of petty disunity and emphasis on the differences between policy approaches rather than attempts to move forward through universally acceptable channels. The conference is already dissolving into a forum for assigning blame, with France and Germany distancing themselves from Anglo-American influence with comments like “this crisis didn’t spontaneously erupt in Europe” and subtle threats of absence on the part of French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
While President Obama should make every effort to account for America’s role in the economic meltdown, an international blame-game will be no more effective than the domestic one already consuming congressional efforts. The not-so-subtle allusions to U.S. blame by international leaders should be acknowledged and promptly forgotten. They serve no productive outlet.
Comments like those made by Lula place the still-leading world economy on the defensive and minimize any chances of influence that he or the disgruntled 18 other members of the G20 could have on future U.S. policy. If Lula truly wishes to promote “indigenous and black” bankers, then he should do so by working to rebuild an economy in which they have a chance at employment, not by embarrassing both himself and his position with petty comments.