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The ecology of conversation

Author Erland Kiøsterud answers philosophy professor Arne Johan Vetlesen by discussing the almost ubiquitous violence in society, in nature and in thinking.


In a very short time, the strange, small human species – consisting of small, scattered flocks of a few thousand individuals, migrating out of Africa at one time – has become seven billion hominids, which have colonized the globe with extreme force, and are now about to threaten their own and the planet's basis of life.
This is a reality that is difficult to accept, not least because our brain is essentially structured in the same way as when we migrated into Eurasia 70 years ago; cognitively and emotionally inclined to interpret and act in the world as if we were still a vulnerable small group in search of food and security.

When two males, in Norway, for example, in 2016, with great force attack the views of the imagined counterpart because they feel mistaken, and so with even greater force to promote their own views, it is not difficult to imagine the same two men in front of a decisive decision on a ridge or in the midst of its frozen herd on its way through the ice age of 10 or 50 000 years ago.
The need to win lies so deep within us that we even construct an enemy to show ourselves, show that we are both right and right.
Very much suggests that this cognitive trait, our intelligence and our extreme competitive instinct – which has also created our ability to utilize resources in our environment; this drive to figure things out, solve problems, be right, win and recover (the physical variation we share with the non-human animals), and which in crucial situations has saved our herd from the safe death – paradoxically the same the property that has now brought the planet to the breaking point of what it can carry organically.
Also, the extreme violence we are waging at the same time, our mental and physical attacks on each other, the killings and the wars, have these long, deep roots.

In an essay in Ny Tid (December 2015) I responded to an essay by Arne Johan Vetlesen in the same newspaper (November 2015) about, among other things, the causes of the ecological crisis we are in. Vetlesen has obviously felt uncomfortable with some of the views I gave him, and at one point I also obviously erred him.
He uses this opportunity in Ny Tid January 2016 for all it is worth to construct a picture of what he perceives as his opponent (signatory) and attribute to this views that he in hindsight does not know are true, in order to clear the space for his own views .
My real errand in the essay, in which I first acknowledge and address Vetlesen, was to show a model of non-violent behavior in the future environmental fight, which we know can be very violent, and to point out the positive in that Norwegian eco-think, where Vetlesen is now absolutely central, both have a deep understanding of society's latent violence og stands together in seeking nonviolent solutions in the environmental struggle. This skips Vetlesen over, to gain more power in the attack on his constructed opponent.

That is correct that parts of my position are rooted in a continental existentialism, where the experienced, vulnerable man in a silent immanence is central, and I assume that Vetlesen can admit that parts of his position spring from an anchorage in a transcendent Greek Christian thinking. Acknowledging this should not be a crisis. We all come from one place and we must move on. We are not just moving forward, we are, as we were 70 years ago, heading into an almost. . .

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Erland Kiøsterud
Author and essayist. Residing in Oslo. See also his website or Wikipedia

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