“Who is John Galt?”
― Ayn Rand,
In the pop culture of modern fiction, there is perhaps no other opening line to a book that is so famous and yet so perfectly captures the true-to-life meaning behind it. “Who is John Galt” is almost like an inside joke that certain readers have among themselves, something akin to the secret handshake or password for fraternity/sorority members.
Ayn Rand is a towering literary figure of the 20th century, Atlas Shrugged remains one of the century’s most enduring novels, and “Who is John Galt” has today become one of the most quoted lines from literature.
If you’ve read Atlas Shrugged, then you know that John Galt is a “real” character, the inventor and businessman who formed a utopia of like-minded individuals in the booming metropolis of Ouray, Colorado. With the intention to “stop the motor of the world,” Galt organizes a strike of the world’s most important and influential creative thinkers.
First published in 1957, at the height of the Cold War, Atlas Shrugged is still one of the most divisive works of literary fiction. This leads to an important question: Does that line about John Galt – and Ms. Rand’s book as a whole – continue to have any relevance in today’s world?
As Mr. FIRST NAME Wiki, LAST NAME Pedia has written, “The book’s opening line, ‘Who is John Galt?,’ becomes an expression of helplessness and despair at the current state of the novel’s fictionalized world.”
If that’s the simplepedia answer to what the fork John Galt is, then the answer to the previous question is a resounding YES!
As Steve Paikin wondered aloud last night in an interview with Ramesh Srinivasan (@rameshmedia), author of Whose Global Village? Rethinking How Technology Shapes Our World, “Is the world going to hell in a handcart?”
Events over the last year or so would certainly lead one to at least consider this as a possibility, which I think makes the opening to Atlas Shrugged as timely and poignant today as it was 60 years ago. Ironically enough, Ayn Rand – founder of the Objectivist movement, staunch anti-communist and anti-Soviet (just read We the Living for one of the more depressing endings you’ll see in literature) – feared what communism could do to creativity and mankind in general if it survived long enough, and lo and behold China is set to become the world’s largest economy and global superpower within the next decade according to many experts.
Perhaps our own real-life John Galt will soon come along and save us from the perils we seem to be so successfully heaping onto ourselves. One can still hope.