I had to go back to see “Inception” for a third time to learn the script a little bit better and understand the Freudian overtones better. Freud wrote of “Civilization and its Discontents” and in so doing he sought to destroy or at least undermine Western civilization. Austrian Psychologist Sigmund Freud was all about “instant gratification” but so was his American contemporary Henry Ford.
Within the language and metaphor of the “Inception” script, Freud was the architect of the abolition of civilization through instant gratification of dreams but Henry Ford was the engineer who implemented the first great program of dream fulfillment for the masses: mass production of automobiles, which became the true religion of the 20th century. The Movie “Inception” kind of brings it all together, showing that the architecture of Freudian dream-time can lead to the reality of Ford through the modern equivalent of the money of a modern (Japanese) ersatz “Rockefeller” specializing in energy monopolization and implemented by subconscious manipulation which can only be called Fraud by dream creation “from the inception.” The whole movie is, then, a metaphor for the revolutionary thinking of the 20th century: dreams can and should be manipulated and changed by subconscious subliminal suggestion, so that sons will not follow their fathers’s dreams, and society will be characterized by impermanence and instability.
Architecture is the eternal metaphor (in civilization) for dreams and ideology. Designing buildings that last forever was the dream of our forefathers in the United States in Europe. The ancient Indo-European “Epic” Dream was the dream of immortality. The Freudian dream is to remake one’s reality instantly in order to achieve instant gratification, and that is the modern 20th-21st century dream.
This movie, “Inception” touches on so many things, I think its analysis will take up a great deal of time. It all goes back to Plato and Book VII of the Republic, specifically the “Parable of the Cave” to which I so often allude and make reference, and which supports some of the greatest of all literary images in history and modern times: from Calderon de la Barca’s play Life is a Dream (“La Vida es Sueno”) and its rough contemporary Don Quixote de la Mancha all the way to modern masterpieces of science fiction from Total Recall and The Matrix right up through this present Inception.
All traditional or “normal” dreams, according to the movie, like all great Epics, start in medias res—“Vix e conspectu Siculae telluris in altum vela dabant laeti et spumas salis aere ruebant….” How on EARTH did Aeneas get from Troy to Sicily? We don’t get back to Aenas’ Father Anchises until Book Six of the Aeneid, when Anchises tells him about the Principio of all things….and that is true mythology. “Inception” is the process of planting that seed which changes everything else in life, whether that dream inception is the seed: “that the world that we live in is not real” placed by Leonard DeCaprio in his late wife Molly or the seed: “that your father does not want you to follow in his footsteps” which changes lives and accordingly, the world.
Put these two seeds together and you have a pretty good conception of what could be called the twin Pillars of religion of the modern world: there is no absolute truth, no reality, so we should create our own according to our needs and whatever will supply our most immediate and pressing quest for self-gratification. To believe this way is to “dream cathedrals and cities that never were” (I may be misquoting the movie here, but that was the idea) and to replace verifiable realities with subjective realities.
Architecture is the perfect metaphor because the creation of architecture, from the very dawn of civilization, defines civilization. The oldest of the “Seven Wonders of the World” (as recognized in Ancient Times) were the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt: the were dedicated to the immortality of the Pharaohs. Throughout Egyptian history, the concept of immortality was popularized and democratized, until even domestic cats were mummified in Greco-Roman times along with crocodiles….. the translation of immortality as a unique product available only to kings into something that could be mass produced took 3000 years in Egyptian history—but it is a process that is repeated now with almost every single product introduced into the market anywhere.
All architecture starts off as a dream. Modern architecture is designed, like the World Trade Center and most other modern buildings, to be brought down easily and neatly by controlled demolition, where one computer-controlled explosion after another causes a building to “pancake” neatly into its own foundation or “footprint”. So both Modern “Bauhaus” architecture and post-modern architecture is designed, like everything in the modern world, to be “disposable”—like dreams, like the subconscious—it can all be remade and reshaped.
If reality and even the subconscious can be so readily remade, what role is there for “truth” of any kind? Is “fraud” even a viable concept anymore? Since all reality is invented and there is no “truth”, then there can certainly be no true “law” or “economic reality.” And here we finally meet back up with the primary topics I deal with on these pages: of the illusion of economic and monetary practices and reality and the enforcement of those practices and the forcible maintenance of that “reality” by law in the Courts of Justice. If people BELIEVE that paying their mortgages is an equitable debt or thing to do, then they will pay their mortgages. If people BELIEVE that the Courts no longer follow the Constitution or the Common Law, then they will no longer respect either the Courts or the Constitution or the Common Law as institutions or documents of integrity.
And here is this other key aspect of manipulable reality: repeating a statement, especially when the repetition passes from person to person, makes the repetition SEEM true, more credible, and hence the VERSION of reality supported more SUBCONSCIOUSLY viable. Agents of one viewpoint or another repeat that viewpoint and therefore try to convince others to repeat “their side of the story.”
In summary, then, from Plato’s “Republic”, to this 2010 mega-hit movie “Inception”—two of the great questions facing philosophers and psychologists are, “what is real?” and “How do we know what is real?” Epistemology is the branch of philosophy which addresses that question, and the Freudian psychoanalytic dimensions of the movie “Inception” raise important questions about political and economic philosophy: to paraphrase a question posed in the movie: “what business [or political] strategy does NOT begin as an emotion?”
For me, the most valuable message of “Inception”, could be this: BEWARE of the Freudian analyses which lead us to demand self-gratification and yet at the same time BEWARE of the illusions we have which appear to change as we are manipulated by the subconscious messages of repetition and broadcast. Let us all think deeply on the several versions of reality with which modern life inevitably presents us, and let us be discriminating and judgmental in our evaluations. Perhaps the values of our fathers and forefathers were good: perhaps the question to build lasting things is BETTER than the quest for instant gratification. Perhaps the quest for enduring truths and long-living realities, for structures of the longue duree, in history, is more important than ever allowing other people to invade our dreams and change our values and minds.