We owe so much to the military-industrial complex. Perhaps all military spending worldwide should be for ONLY defense purposes…..? We would be so grateful for the absence of offensive militaries. Anyway, in the 1960s and 70s, when people started to realize that these vast expanses of military facilities dedicated to land warfare were out-of-date and superfluous, the question emerged: what to do with them? Hundreds of thousands of acres of prime, undeveloped, gorgeous land. When Ronnie Ray-gun was in the White House, they came to the conclusion that the lands should be split off from defense and new “higher-valued” uses found–which to Ronnie’s friends ever since he was Governor of California, meant selling the lands off to real estate developers. So, for example, in the headlands of San Francisco where there are tens of thousands of acres overlooking San Francisco or positioned on some of the most beautiful beaches, Ronnie’s friends immediately set to work developing plans for new cities of 20-30,000 people all throughout Marin County and other of the coastal communities. These proposals would have entailed buying the “surplus” federal lands dirt (so to speak) cheap and build cities such as the one called “Monticello” (after another great(?) President’s home) near where we now live in Marin. This was true throughout the US. It soon sank into people’s heads that these were in fact the public’s lands and the public should enjoy them a’ la swords-into-plows. So, Congressman Phil Burton of San Francisco led the effort to convert most of the lands into public parks and other public spaces. Hence, the Golden Gate Recreation Area and its kin across the US. Vis today is relatively untouched thanks to the same thinking about defenses….. Tito and his gang of thugs thought that this island should be a military complex…. and so it was. The people were taken–yes, taken off the island so that military secrets could remain “intelligence”…. Decades later the place was also relatively untouched quite simply because the military presence focussed on their own real or imagined needs. Hundreds of emptied farms, houses, mansions, are scattered throughout the island and within the towns of Vis. Decades later, more military craziness reigned when Serbs, Croats, etc., all took it upon themselves to make up for the lost time during WWII and Tito’s repressive reign. Free of a lid, folks took it upon themselves ….. Anyway, through these messes, Vis was mostly unpopulated and undamaged. Today it is in the process of rebirth as a new kind of place free of the central trading and military center that it has been for millennia. The future is uncertain as people try to protect their heritage at the same time as they seek to “modernize”. So far, so good. Vis’ rôle in trading and military “defense” is documented well back into the centuries B.C. through successive waves of Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Italians, British, French, Germans, USSR-influences each sought its strategic position and fabulous harbor for their purposes. All of this commotion is documented. The disturbance and lack of disturbance is readily evident today. One of the results is that the documentation shows who-owns-what, sort of. But land tenure and ownership is fractured, heirs long out of touch, and clearing titles complex, expensive, extortive (as claimed heirs start to line up when a clouded title is being sold), and that only (if successful) starts a long and expensive restoration process. Our friends (for personal privacy reasons, we don’t put names on the web) are among a very small population who took it on. In the middle of political uncertainty, economic upheaval, and only early signs of a revival of Vis, they bought in–bought a run-down house on the waterfront and set forth to restore it into beauty it probably never enjoyed before. They retained all of the architectural and structural integrity and charm while making a fabulously livable and welcoming home inside the walls. The seamless blending of old and new seems easy and intimate, rather than jarring juxtaposition common to many “modernization” projects. Theirs is a success story that we can only hope serves as a model for the present and future people of Vis.

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