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Kawabata, N. (2002). The Need to Know: A Review of Underground by Haruki Murakami, New York: Vintage Books, 2001. 366 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 38(3):533-540.

(2002). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 38(3):533-540

The Need to Know: A Review of Underground by Haruki Murakami, New York: Vintage Books, 2001. 366 pp.

Review by:
Naoto Kawabata, Ph.D.

The Irrationality of massive destruction and homicide throws us into mistrust. After World War I, in his wish to understand the irrationality of mass behavior and his hunger for peace and mutual understanding in the international community, Erich Fromm (1962) made it his rule to “doubt everything.” However accustomed one may be to lonely voyages in the sea of the unconscious, one is never free from doubt. To use an ancient metaphor for the world, the direction that the huge turtle is heading can hardly be known to those of us living on the turtle's back (Levenson, 1972).

The difference for modern society is that we see catastrophe with our own eyes, using communication technology and media networks. Fifty years ago, most Japanese didn't know what had happened in Hiroshima, even well after the war ended. Now most of them could watch the collapse of the World Trade Center in real time. We live at a historical moment when heads of government apologize to citizens for being unable to provide real-time coverage of a war.

Has any of this increased our sense of where the world is headed? Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be the case. When I returned to Japan in November 2001, I was surprised that TV news and other programs were covering the everyday life of ordinary Afghans—something I had rarely seen in New York. A selective “hyper” attention precludes an awareness of the whole.

On Monday, March 20, 1995, five members of the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo used the nerve poison sarin to attack the Tokyo subway system. Five subway lines were selected as targets, each assigned to one cult member carrying liquid sarin in two or three transparent plastic bags.

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