Personal responsibility

I wanted to continue a thread of discussion from I think Monday's class regarding personal responsibility in the WWII and contemporary contexts in Cryptonomicon. Someone mentioned that whereas Bobby and Lawrence's responsibility is simply to take orders that aid an obviously morally justified cause (the war), Randy's responsibility and complicity in 1990's geopolitics is much more intricate and, furthermore, individualistic. It seems that Randy's worldy engagement often comes down to his whim, especially as someone of the professional class: he gets in and of romantic relationships, he starts business ventures, he picks and flies accross the world whenever the situation calls for it. These are privileges that Lawrence and Bobby clearly don't have; yet is Randy really that much freer than these two? Especially in his work for Epiphyte co., Randy's (as well as Avi's and all the others') choices become less their own and more about "increasing shareholder value." There is even that scene in the hotel room when Randy refers to the bathroom as "the shareholders' bathroom." It is comical but also true insofar as the only way to justify a business expense (like paying for hotel rooms) is if it benefits the shareholders in the long-run. In this sense, whereas the Lawrence and Bobby's impetus is always "win the war," Randy's is "maximize profit." In the hyper-competitive marketplace, which is becoming increasingly actualized as we speak, making money is the bottom line of all business ventures. Randy has some room to maneuver because of his human capital and generally privileged status; most people do not have this luxury. So, again, how free is Randy, and, correlatively, where does his responsibility come in? I think this point is debatable. The question is of particular interest in light of Avi's quest to prevent future Holocaust(s). While the outcome of these two systems are NOT THE SAME, there is an important structural analogue between the low-level Nazi soldier and the wage laborer: both have effectively no choice but to participate in carrying out a larger systemic outcome without having any control over it. This is, I think, what is so pernicious about Auschwitz; it was less about Hitler's evil vision out (though this is usually how it gets narrativized) than a chain of command that was hierarchically bureaucratized to the point that people on the bottom had no room space for ethical decision-making. As the liberalization of markets around the world continues, labor markets gets squeezed to the point that the same can be said of unskilled laboreres, and, increasingly, skilled laborers as well. What we have to evaluate - and what I think Avi fails to adequately grapple with in his inexorable quest to stop state meddling in the flow of information - is what the systemic logic of capital entails. Where, in other words, are we headed? Things get scary - Holocaust scary - whenever individually based ethics give way to larger outcomes; yet Epiphyte seems to be helping to create precisely this kind of situation.