A few in Hiroshima could seize upon their hibakusha identity and put it to public use. They became the kind of leaders who emerge from any disaster, or general historical crisis, to help ordinary people cope with extraordinary circumstances.
While it would be difficult to say that any of them belongs to the select category of the "great man," each has aspired to exert upon his contemporaries the kind of influence characteristic of the great man: to combine personality and idea in a way that made contact with what Freud called the "wishes" of the rank and file, either by reviving "an old group of wishes" or providing "a new aim for their wishes"; 1 and (in Erikson's phrase) to "increase the margin of man's inner freedom by introspective means applied to the very center of his conflicts." 2 For hibakusha these conflicts were concerned mainly with retained death imagery, and the inner freedom sought was release from death anxiety and death guilt. The unifying theme of hibakusha leaders, therefore, has been the idea of "conquering death"--of demonstrating ways of comprehending a profound upheaval in patterns of life and death, and ultimately of comprehending the fact of human mortality itself. This theme, I would submit, is the primary function of all leaders and all great men, though strangely neglected in our explanations of leadership and greatness.