Who Is John Galt?


Who Is John Galt?

A cryptic question leading to a very disappointing reveal in a frighteningly awful novel. John Galt is the supposed hero of Ayn Rand’s massive ode to capitalism and objectivism. I read this book in my 20s because I came across it in a book store, and based on the wonderful title and the back flap’s blurb about the premise, it sounded like a novel about a global depression sweeping across the world’s elite. It sounded interesting. Over one thousand pages later, I closed that book and vowed never to waste another minute on this crazy lady’s words and ideas. Besides all that, the book was badly written, and downright silly.

It was written by a woman yet is sexist in its depiction of women. It assesses the worth of a person solely on their careers, stature, and cash value. It leaves no room for emotion or randomness in its staunch philosophy of how to live a righteous and meaningful life. It was also one of the worst attempts at science fiction I have yet to witness, Plan 9 from Outer Space included.

So why create something from a source I have such contempt for? Well, there is that title, “Atlas Shrugged,” which is alluring on its own, free of the baggage of the awful novel itself. There is also an ironic lesson in the character of Galt himself - hardly a full-fledged character, more a construct or plot device who speaks like a vulcan from Star Trek - a lesson in the flawed premise itself. Imagine if the one-percenters, the CEOs and Politicians pull out of life and leave their posts, letting society crumble in their absence. They meant to prove their worth to the teeming, stupid masses, depicted as nothing more than greedy leeches in the book, by showing the world what happens when they stop the machine of the world - arrogantly assuming that the world is theirs to stop.

The truth is, civilizations rise and fall, kings come and go, and traditions fade. The great and powerful on their lofty perches and piles of money may run things to an extent, but the world will indeed go on without them, and will change again and again, adapting to the ebb and flow of modern civilization.

The “heroes” of this book think too highly of themselves and overestimate their worth. They derive their identities solely from their work, and oh, is their work and lives boring as hell, at least to me. Their emotions are as preposterous as the secret base of John Galt hidden in the Rockies, poorly written and clearly reflective of the author herself - who I can only imagine was a brutal piece of flint in life.

The point of this image is John Galt thinks he has hijacked the world and is protecting it. But the world is still there, below him, going on without him just the same. He is a deliberate enigma with a megalomaniacal ego, and no one can live up to that kind of build up and no one could ever be that important in the grand scheme of things. He seeks adoration, acknowledgement and any form of tribute worthy of a titan of industry. This image is not meant to give it to him, it is intended to show him as a flaccid, impotent and petulant child who thinks he owns the world.

Michael Bilotta
August 9, 2016