The opposition to barefooting sometimes is just mind-boggling. I know a lot of us wonder what’s behind it. It arises in the weirdest places, and seems to generate an amount of heat way out of proportion to such a simple act.
It seems we must be civilized.
This article, from February of 1974, may explain an awful lot of it.
The article is an exploration of some of the things hotels managers had to deal with in other countries. But the main one, the main problem, was dealing with bare feet.
Hotel chain personnel boss encounters bizarre problems
By Leroy Pope
UPI Business Writer
NEW YORK (UPI) — Would you be offended if you walked into the dining room of a swank hotel in the tropic and found all the waiters and even the maitre d’hotel barefoot?
Although this question has been settled in favor of shoes for the present it still arouses uneasy feelings in Henry Ogden Barbour, vice president of manpower development of Pan American Airways’ Inter-Continental Hotel chain which has 62 hotels in 42 countries.
The barefoot waiter problem came up at the Tahara Inter-Continental in Tahiti and at several of the company’s luxury hotels in African and Asian countries where the populace normally goes barefoot.
“I didn’t think we had much right to make the workers wear shoes, and I thought the bare feet added a touch of local color,” says Barbour, who formerly was director of Michigan State University’s school of hotel and restaurant management. “But our hotel managers, who are mostly Swiss or French, disagreed. They insisted our hotels have a civilizing mission and that civilization includes shoes.”
That’s it right there. First, there’s the arrogant idea that these foreign invaders have a civilizing mission. Then, on top of that, they insist that lacking shoes makes you uncivilized.
That is just plain old insulting and ignorant.
Or maybe we should be happy that they’re not insisting that, to be civilized, you also need a top hat, a cane, and a monocle.
I’d like to think that as we become more “civilized” we also become more accepting of differences. I’d also like to think that as we become more civilized that we can throw away many of the items that might have had some role in protecting us from a harsh environment.
But we’ve pretty much tamed the environment. We groom it to meet our needs. And we ought to be able to groom it so that it can accept us without requiring us to wear what so many others consider to be mandatory safety equipment.
Unfortunately, it looks like at least some of the Tahitians learned their lesson to civilize-up. When I was in Rapa Nui (Easter Island), I saw that Air Tahiti Nui airplane on the tarmac.
On checking their Contract of Carriage
10.1 Refusal of Carriage
Even if you have a ticket and a confirmed reservation, we may refuse to carry you and your baggage if any of the following circumstances have occurred or we reasonably believe will occur:
* * *
Their main web page has links to pages for the different countries they operate in. Oddly enough, it is only the pages for New Zealand and Australia that ban bare feet. That condition is not included for their pages for Tahiti, France, Japan, or even, get this, the United States. Who knows why.
But in the end, so many of these barefoot cultures have been tromped on by heavy boots to convince them that if they are barefooted they are not properly civilized. Whatever they are doing, they are doing it wrong. The idea is that all the features of the industrialized world must be copied if you are to be properly civilized.
And we see that reinforced in so many of their schools in which school uniforms include shoes for no good reason at all (well, except maybe for misguided charities to feel good about themselves when they have massive shoe drives).
Civilization — you’re doing it wrong.