"For twelve years, you have been asking: Who is John Galt? This is John Galt speaking. I am the man who loves his life. I am the man who does not sacrifice his love or his values. I am the man who has deprived you of victims and thus has destroyed your world, and if you wish to know why you are perishing--you who dread knowledge--I am the man who will now tell you."
      From Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged

Twelve years prior to this statement, John Galt went on strike--a strike of the mind. Society wanted to leech off of his creativity, his intelligence, his genius. They would not recompense him for his accomplishments, rather they would scorn him for his natural abilities. So he left. Before he left, though, he vowed to stop the motor of the world.

Through fear and uncertainty of the possibility of his statement coming true, society decided to try to ignore John Galt's mere existence, making him a common phrase: Who is John Galt? The term came to be used as an end-all conversational piece, when people are presented with a statement that questions any accepted hypotheses of the day. People didn't want to think any more.

The question eventually came to represent the self-immolation of society. People began to stop thinking, stop questioning, stop progress. As society started falling apart at its seams, people looked to the geniuses, the entrepreneurs, the scientists, the people with ability to carry the burden. But society just devoured these people.

At the point where there was no hope, John Galt returned.

Who is John Galt?

John Galt is the man who could do what he said. John Galt stopped the motor of the world.

A statement of hopeless despair, analagous to "shit happens". In the world of Atlas Shrugged it is asked by those who are afraid of looking for causes of their problems, preferring to hide behind a cliche.

Immediately before he went on strike the man John Galt was working as a researcher at the Twentieth Century Motor Company. The old owner of the factory, John Starnes, had been a stern man who demanded nothing less than the best from his employees. Once he died, it was taken over by his three children; Ivy, Eric and Gerald. They held a general meeting and announced that the company would be run on a new policy: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. In essence, the factory was now a worker's collective. John Galt stood up and walked out of the plant, saying that he would stop the motor of the world.

When the factory went under, the few workers who remained travelled across the country as vagrants. When they saw the American economy begin to plunge and society begin to unravel, they saw that the young researcher had made good on his threat. They began to try and find him, to talk him out of it, to win him back along with the philosophy he championed, to no avail. They cried out "Who is John Galt?" and others, not understanding the reference but all too familiar with the sentiment, took up the cry.

The question of "Who is John Galt?" is an unanswerable question taken from the fictional novel Atlas Shrugged and is merely a symbol of objectivism.

In a sense, John Galt is not as fictional as we would all like to think. He is a part of every person who lives who once has though out of the means of conformity. He stands for a part of our thought process that wants to break out and give up on the accepted morals of society. He is what we all fear inside of ourselves, and what we all desire to be like at the same time. He is a ghost of what our lives could have been.

Through John Galt, Ayn Rand created a new approach to viewing our government, morals, and society in hopes of reform. Where she saw error, she wrote with a forked pen in hope of opening the world’s eyes. In the idea of stopping the motor of the world she expressed the need for social reform in recognizing others' accomplishments before people stopped seeing and benefit in sharing their successes with the world and turned it inward on itself.

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