I wrote “Paragon of Man’s Ego” for the Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest in 2015 and won the finalist prize. In essence, the essay question was “Who is John Galt?”
I started writing these essays in high school (starting with an essay on the book “The Fountainhead”). This was the year I was frantically searching for scholarships to further my education, preferably by escaping to another country.
An essay with a $10,000 prize for students caught my attention. I had no dreams of winning this prize money but it sure piqued my curiosity! Enough to search for and acquire this book from a far-away university library in another city. Why did I have to do this?
Well, I was born and raised on a far-away island called Fiji. A paradise getaway to many, it was, in fact, a third-world country where I felt my potential was being stifled.
I had a good childhood, thanks to my hardworking parents, but I wanted to do more for myself, reach my full potential and this wasn’t the place to do so. So, I looked for ways to escape to a better future.
And I found it (!) — in Ayn Rand’s philosophy.
Almost every year after that first essay, throughout college, I took part in the essay contest. By then I was familiar with Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged and many other works.
I kept doing it because I found them a great way to focus on studying Atlas Shrugged. Maybe, I will share the rest of them one by one. Though this is my best and the last one I wrote. Good times!
I have edited the essay, mainly in its presentation and formatting. Such as highlighting and breaking paragraphs and adding images for readability.
Spoiler Alert: This essay contains spoilers from the book. I recommended you read the book first for the background you need to comprehend this essay.
Who is John Galt? The Paragon of Man’s Ego
The phrase, “Who is John Galt?”, evokes within Eddie a shapeless dread that one morning he would walk into the Taggart building to find it an empty shell with its living power gone. The same dread he had felt in his childhood when he had found the mighty oak tree rotten and hollow inside as it lay broken one day, struck by lightning.
This imagery depicts the hero-worshiper’s nightmare, a desolate world with its motive power, the creators, gone.
Creators are the men of independent thought and action. They are the men of ability, the individuals who stand alone in their quests and forge ahead with their new ideas and visions.
An honest, pro-life man dreads a world without the creators. Because he knows that their motivation for their own achievements is the primary moving force of the world. Hence, he admires and appreciates them. This is what the creator deserves from the world he carries on his shoulders.
Instead, society resents and punishes him for his virtues qua virtues, while attempting to enslave his mind to society’s needs and bend his will to society’s whims, in the name of the public good. Such is a society built on the morality of self-sacrifice, the philosophy of altruism.
The practical consequences of such a philosophy are clear when it is implemented as moral law in Starnesville.
Every worker had a right to what he needed. Hence, the lazy incompetent wore his sores and needs as a badge so that he could claim more of the pay. Every worker was required to work according to ability.
Therefore, the diligent, competent worker was sentenced to more hours of work. But he was too proud to beg for what he had earned and so he got less in return. Eventually, the ablest among them did their best to shut off their brains and be no good, so that the looters would get nothing but scraps.
The electric motor invented by a young engineer at Starnesville would have set the whole country ablaze with productivity and life. Instead, because of the moral law they accepted, Starnesville was eventually reduced to a few trembling lights of tallow candles; the electric motor discarded as a pile of worthless scrap, without its creator.
This was the testament of an irrational philosophy brought to its logical ugly end.
To the six thousand men gathered at their first meeting, Gerald Starnes had declared, “…each of us belongs to all the others by the moral law which we all accept!” (617).
But there was one man who had stood up and declared that he did not accept it.
He was the man who knew that his mind, work and life belonged to him alone, by his right. The man who swore the oath, “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” (670).
He was the man with an ego who knew that this was the ideal of virtue.