Off the Top of my Head
By Paul Murray
In 2002, while working as a journalist for The Daily Yomiuri in Japan, I was actively involved in the international peace movement that was protesting the planned unprovoked invasion of Iraq by the government of George W Bush and the asses of evil Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair et al…
A million people marched on the streets of Tokyo, the same in New York City, Sydney, London, Rome, Los Angeles, Paris…in cities all over the world, people were united in peace were sending a very strong message to the Bush government that gunship politics was unacceptable, undemocratic and not representative of the people they were elected to represent. I actually believed that for the first time in history, the peace movement might actually prevent a war.
Despite the protests marches being the biggest display of public sentiment in Japan since the Vietnam War, the paper I was working for wasn’t even going to report it. I was incensed and remember having a standing argument with the managing editor of the paper insisting that the protest marches should be front page because that is actually news and we are producing a newspaper…hello!
My efforts resulted in the march going on the front page of the paper, but I was already well aware that what is published in the paper is nothing to do with what is actually going on in the world, but that the corporate media was merely a means of promoting the other corporations and to really understand what is going on in the world, you need to interpolate what is written in mainstream media by thinking, OK, this is what they want me to believe…so why do they want me to believe this? That way, you get some idea of what is really happening.
At the time, I was very interested in Taoism and the writings of Lao Tzu. A spiritual guide that made more sense to me than any religious text I’d ever read. Through this, I came to understand that it was impossible to experience peace if it wasn’t defined by war and that this process was merely and extension of the yin-yang duality of all things. Up has no meaning without down to give it reference and definition. I developed an understanding that some people were always going to devote their effort to war, violence and aggression and that it was paramount that others counter their belligerence through the pursuit of peacefulness, compassion, tolerance and understanding and that it was necessary to balance war-mongering with peaceful pursuits. From this, the LivingInPeace Project was born.
“When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad.” Lao Tzu
I was disillusioned when the will of the people was ignored by the Bush/Blair hawks and decided to devote my life to the peace side of the ledger to counter their aggression, avarice and violence in the hope that by doing so, others would see a better way to live and come to understand that in this day and age, if you use violence, war and the military to solve problems, you are a failure.
Discussing this with my then girlfriend Sanae Numata at my house in Hayama, Japan as we were preparing dinner one day galvanised my plans and motivated me to risk everything for what I believed in. I asked Sanae to ready the dinner table while I finished the meal preparation. She went into the next dining room, which was not visible from the kitchen. When I brought the food n to the dining room to serve the meal, she had arranged the cutlery, crockery and table condiments into a peace sign and was sitting at the table stark naked! We are now married and have two beautiful children.
So, I quit my job as a journalist and decided to move to New Zealand to make a positive and conscious effort for the rest of my days to devote my life to peaceful pursuits and demonstrate to others that another way of life is possible.
The LivingInPeace Project began in 2003 with the purchase of an 80-acre (31-hectare) property in Karamea, which is a small town servicing a community of about 700 people at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The initial intention was to build an artist’s retreat on the property, which borders on the Kahurangi National Park and has about 400 metres of frontage to the Karamea River. However, the densely forested block proved unsuitable for such a venture as the many sandflies in the summertime was contrary to the LivingInPeace concept.
It was decided that the sandflies were there to protect the forest from human habitation and the site for the retreat was changed when a more suitable location later became available. The bush block will be preserved for the benefit of humanity and respected for the beauty, diversity, peace and tranquility it holds, as well as to provide a carbon offset to counter emissions produced in the service of the business ventures. Simple walking tracks will be made through the forest to allow people to experience and enjoy the sanctity of the bush without destroying it and upsetting the delicate balance of nature.
The Karamea region is a paradise blessed with natural beauty; forest-covered mountains, long white sandy beaches, broad free-flowing rivers, lush green fields and fresh clear air. The region is effectively a geographical Island. It is 100 kilometres north of the closest major town of Westport and is protected on three sides by the forested mountains of the Kahurangi National Park and to the west by the Tasman Sea. As a result, Karamea is a unique rural enclave, protected from development, commercialism and many of the social ills found in urban communities. People stop and chat with each other when they meet by chance, drivers wave to each other as they pass on the road, the publican knows everyone by name and when something needs to be done, the people band together to share their skills and help each other out. This is the kind of community spirit the LivingInPeace Project seeks to foster and proliferate.
A team of volunteers from around the world has been working since mid-2004 to convert the building into a hostel called “Rongo,” which means “Peace” in Maori. The backpackers business will provide accommodation for the volunteers and a means of financing the LivingInPeace Project. The volunteers receive free accommodation in return for their energy and efforts in helping to develop Rongo and the realisation of the LivingInPeace Project.
The venture expanded further with the May 2005 purchase of the Karamea Farm Baches, an additional accommodation facility with four houses, three cabins and five self-contained baches, plus a 4-acre farm, which borders the Karamea estuary lagoon and looks west to the Tasman Sea. The farm is the perfect location for the Living In Peace Project, the location is attractive with great views west to the sea and estuary lagoon and back into the mountains of the Kahurangi National Park to the north, east and south. The farmland is well drained, fertile and highly productive and will be converted into a permaculture farm that will provide food for both the people involved in the Living In Peace Project and guests at our accommodation facilities.
Rongo Backpackers & Gallery is a microcosm of the LivingInPeace Project. In effect, it is a test case, or practice run to determine the efficacy of the business model. Karamea Farm Baches is the second stage of the project development and provides accommodation options for a different market while expanding the project’s agricultural possibilities. The farm behind the bach complex is being developed into a permaculture block that produces locally grown, organic meals for our guests. Karamea has enormous horticultural potential, fertile, well-drained alluvial soils, plenty of sunshine and evenly spaced, ample rainfall throughout the year, which alleviates the need for irrigation (a large cost saving in the establishment of a horticulture farm).
Today Rongo has very much become a stepping stone toward the ultimate goal of incorporating the elements of; art, permaculture, tourism into a sustainable business model. The building has been transformed inside and out into a fabulously vibrant, colourful and creatively inspiring place, which now includes a community radio station, organic vegetable and aesthetic gardens, a fire bath and an excellent art gallery featuring the work of local and international artists.
The concept of both Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, Karamea Farm Baches and the LivingInPeace Project is to create an artistically inspiring environment where people can live, as they want in return for helping maintain and develop the venture, with the only rule being to respect the rights of others and to take responsibility for your own actions…common sense. The project is open to everyone, all nationalities, sexes, religions, ages etc, but it is especially hoped that artistic and creative people will come and stay and that the venue becomes an international centre for creativity, invention, innovation and artistic excellence.
The project aims to transcend the paradox faced by all young artists, which is: no one buys their work because no one knows who they are, and no one knows who they are because no one buys their work…which makes it very difficult for young artists to get established and support themselves financially as they attempt to develop their talent and skill. This coupled with the fact that creative art skills and creative marketing skills are generally not found in the same person, and the fact that many artists are uncomfortable selling their own work means that many aspiring and talented artists are forced to give up before achieving artistic success through financial hardship, frustration and despair.
The LivingInPeace Project seeks to assist aspiring artists through an artist-in-residency programme and by helping to market their work through the gallery, exhibitions, the Internet and other means to enable them to get established and recognized as artists to allow them to continue their work elsewhere. The project is quite ambitious and there is much work to be done. The LivingInPeace Project needs volunteers to come and contribute to the venture in whatever capacity they are able, whether it be building, cooking, making music, making people laugh, painting, cleaning, singing, dancing, or offering financial support…everyone has something they can contribute.
The LivingInPeace Project is seeking financial support from its members to expand further and to build on the foundation we’ve established. Becoming a LiP Project member enables you to be actively involved in the project and to support an innovative venture that is striving to minimise the environmental impact of the business, maximise energy efficiency and create a socially harmonious environment for people from all walks of life to enjoy.
LivingInPeace Project members support the project in an important way. If you are unable to physically come and lend a hand, your financial support is invaluable in helping fund the growth and development of the project, which you can then visit and enjoy. There is significant potential for further growth and your support is greatly appreciated.
Three-year memberships in the LivingInPeace Project are $NZ 1,000. The money raised is used to expand the concept and provide additional facilities and services that can be enjoyed by members and visitors to the project. Memberships include a holiday voucher to the value of the membership and members are encouraged to come and experience the project first hand and see how their money is being used and redeem their investment in food, accommodation, tours, participating in courses and workshops and purchasing artworks.
The LivingInPeace Project now has significant momentum and is more than just a dream. Tangible progress has been made over the past 12 years and, with the support of like-minded people, exponential growth is now possible.
Please visit our Web site www.LivingInPeace.com for more information, please support the project by becoming a member and come and visit…I look forward to meeting you soon.