Who Is John Gault?
You’ve probably heard of Ayn Rand, and her wild philosophy. Well her institute offers some of the worlds largest essay contests, with some very impressive monetary prizes, so I decided to submit. The premise of the contest is to read Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged and then answer one of the essay questions. The topic I chose is the title of this post.
Even though I was pretty optimistic of winning the $20,000 first prize, I did not quite get that, but I did do quite well, considering! I received the title of semifinalist, which means I won $50 (pretty meager for the effort I put into the dang thing) and was in the top 5% of over 1600 entries. I mean, I’d never even heard of Ayn Rand before this past summer, so I think I can be pretty proud of my accomplishment, and now I am better prepared to place higher next year.
If you’re interested in reading my semifinalist essay, about how awesome capitalism is and what the ideal man is like, here it is (just so you know, my philosophy does not reflect this essay):
“John Galt is Prometheus who changed his mind. After centuries of being torn by vultures in payment for having brought to men the fire of the gods, he broke his chains and he withdrew his fire— until the day when men withdraw their vultures.” (517)
Throughout humanity’s history there have always existed heroes of great faculty who were tyrannized for their extraordinary ability by the same men who stole the inventions of their mind and deemed their actions moral. As explanation for this baffling phenomenon of an animal’s attempted murder of the hand that feeds it, the intellectuals were so burdened by a heavy yolk upon their shoulders of unfeasible responsibility and guilt that they failed to see the simple solution to their torturous affair. That is, until a great man of righteous capability whispered into their ears and told them they no longer had to be punished for their magnificent minds; he told them the secret to their redemption was to simply shrug. This man is an immortal lighthouse for men of the mind, guiding them safely from the greatest evil of all. His name is John Galt, and by his virtue and morality of reason, Galt is both a spiritual symbol and physical manifestation— with no conflict between either— of his unique code of life: exerting one’s own rational mind superlatively while living for no one but themselves. He is the one true explorer of men, as he traverses where none have dared to or have been capable of going.
Although few actually know Galt in the flesh, he is known to most as a fantastical explorer who seeks that which cannot be found, consequentially risking his life and his love. What people fail to acknowledge is that Galt is an explorer of man’s mind, and the pursuit of happiness— for no one but himself. It is his absolute rationality and perfect virtue that precedes the legends that are whispered about Galt as a great hero from dive cafés to extravagant parties. While it would be easy to deny the whispers as mere folklore, Francisco d’Anconia— who claims to have faith in nothing— confirms their truth. Galt is described as an explorer who “saw the towers of Atlantis shining on the bottom of the ocean… [and] sank his own ship and went down with his entire crew,” (153) all men vanishing voluntarily; as an adventurer who located the fountain of youth at the peak of a misty mountain, with the intention of bringing it back for humanity, but discovered it could not be brought down. Finally he is Prometheus, who brought the fire of the gods down to men, and was generously rewarded with a sentence of eternal torture. While all of these myths are extraordinary and cannot possibly be true in a literal sense, there is a thread of logic that weaves them all together, which is John Galt’s daring and lonely pursuit of the greatest treasure known to man: the Morality of Life.
As a young virtuoso student of Aristotelianism philosophy, John Galt would ask questions “pertaining to Plato’s metaphysics, which Plato hadn’t the sense to ask of himself” (786). His seeking mind provided Galt with the philosophical tools required to reclaim the world from those who have perpetually feasted on man’s consciousness. Galt is a philosopher who is the first man to substantiate that his “own happiness is man’s only moral purpose, but only his own virtue can achieve it” (1021). Demonstrating his faultless virtue, Galt is described as “the self-made man, self-made in every sense, out of nowhere,” (786) and is likened to Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, who “sprang forth from Jupiter’s head, fully grown and fully armed” (786). By harnessing Galt’s unique code of life, yielding his divine rationality, and negating the moocher’s morality of death, Galt’s reclamation of a rational, limitlessly productive world is not only possible, but imminent.
Before becoming the man to lead humanity into a new era of laissez-faire capitalism, Galt harnessed his deep understanding of the laws of matter and philosophy in becoming an inventor, “a man who asks ‘why?’ of the universe and lets nothing stand between the answer and his mind” (1047). Galt possessed the incalculable potential for wealth when he designed a motor that would operate totally on static electricity extracted from the atmosphere, and “would have raised the efficiency of every human installation using power” (1048). In order to abide by his morality, however, Galt was forced to destroy all that he had worked for after he encountered the face of evil. The men who hired him had began to distribute wage based not on ability, but on need; in this twisted system, men fought to appear the most worthless because they knew that for their hard work, “it’s not thanks or rewards that [they’d] get, but punishment” (662). During a meeting designed to establish whose need was greatest at the depraved motor company, Galt publicly declared that he would “put an end to this once and for all… [he] would stop the motor of the world” (671). Abiding by egoism and rejecting man’s sinister altruism, Galt declared war on humanity; he destroyed any evidence of the miraculous motor which could potentially save humanity’s flesh— but not their mind— and disappeared, merely leaving behind an echo of his destructive vow.
John Galt is the first man of ability who developed a sure-fire method to conquer the irrational looters when he discovered the right to be “proud of [his] own value”(1021) and his powerful desire to live. Following this discovery, ironically, the world’s greatest producer thus became known as ‘the Destroyer’, an invisible and herculean force that seemed to be the cause of increasingly frequent disasters. As the world crumbled around them, the mindless masses of brutes would hopelessly murmur, “Who is John Galt?” in a symbolic gesture of defeat of “their own betrayed self-esteem” (1060). The select few who did know Galt personally are the heroes who, before meeting Galt, were capable men who had not yet discovered the virtue of their morality. Galt provided them with the vision to see their pureness and aided them to see the nature of the looters, proceeding to tell them the key to the end of their suffering is simply pronouncing the word “no”. To the rest of the world, it was truly shocking when the men whom they relied on for survival started disappearing one by one, abandoning humanity to run its course of destruction, while they safely observed from a hidden valley oasis. It is in this way that Galt led an unprecedented strike of the mind, which historically, the intellects were incapable of.
The identity that describes John Galt best and actually unifies all of his distinguishing characteristics is that of him as lover. While this may seem outrageously contradictory in consideration of his relentless pursuit of enabling humanity to self-destruct, it is actually the ultimate proof of Galt’s infinite love. As “love is our response to our highest values” (490), so Galt’s demonstration of love is the greatest display of the values most dear to him: reason, purpose, and self-esteem. First and foremost Galt is “the man that loves his life” (1009), as a direct result of his rationality, because “to the extent to which a man is rational, life is the premise of directing his actions” (1018). It is through Galt’s complete adherence to his noble virtue and his love of life that he seeks to annihilate the faction of death-seeking men in order so he can live a childlike existence free of guilt and punishment. Galt’s love of life is blatantly obvious in the way his resplendent face is often described, as one that has never known “pain or fear or guilt” (652). Galt is also the lover of Dagny Taggart, who unknowingly prayed since she was a little girl to the spirit of Galt in hope and desperation of her salvation from the corrupted world that she lives. That is, until spirit became flesh when her eyes met his for the first time, and the values she had always known, but could never identify in words, were expressed in two simple words: John Galt. Taggart is a rare specimen, a goddess of cognition, and since “the man who is proudly certain of his own value will want the highest type of woman… only the possession of a heroine will give [man] the sense of an achievement” (490). Therefore, it is Galt’s successful pursuit of Taggart that fully embodies his supreme code of ethics and virtuousness.
An ideal man of beauty in both flesh and spirit, Galt symbolically represents the faultless, moral existence that he proclaimed to the world during his notable radio broadcast. Galt is subject of lore, and the physical proof; he is a bold explorer and a wise philosopher; he is lover, and therefore he is destroyer. John Galt is commander of the greatest strike of the mind in history, and these are the words by which he led his fellow intellects into an unparalleled period of limitless production: “I swear— by my life and my love of it— that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine” (1069).