Individualism is a great thing, when it's truly expressed. Is individualism developing ones self as a person, as a human being, as an individual, or is individualism the capability to ride around in gas guzzling SUVs destroying the environment and encouraging dependence on a scarce resource which we don't need to use anyways? Which is more important, the sense of freedom gotten from being a true individual or the sense of freedom gotten from owning and using an SUV? These considerations are important because sometimes individual actions detrimentally effect the collective well being of all people, and in these cases restriction on individual choice or individual options is justified in order to stop threats to the collective. But when you do that, or make that case, there should be a real reckoning of whether this is really necessary or not; philosophically this impigns on our notion of the free untrammeled individual, living totally independently, without any concern or any effect on the people around him or her, on the community.
That said, there are justifications for collective needs taking precedence and there are justifications, as they say; the Bush justification for restricting civil liberties based on some imagined terror threat is bullshit, while the justification for sacrifice in order to save the environment, without which we really will all be dead, is not.
Which is more important, your SUV or collective survival? That feeling of being on the road, experiencing America's byways, something which I've treasured personally, could easily be implemented through an extensive system of trains, with youths having the adventure of experiencing America like they used to, or how they still do in Europe and Latin America, and probably seeing more of the real America in the process since trains don't go through the highway oasis system which reproduces McDonald's at every exit connected to a major thoroughfare.
But we refuse to make changes. We refuse to change our ways of not just transportation but of how our basic industry works, leading to the fact that our petrochemical processing plants pollute to a greater extent than equivalents elsewhere in the first world, leading to chemical plants taking the petrochemicals and converting them further into other chemicals replicating the process of industrial pollution.
Steel mills in the northeast, such as they still exist, use archaic equipment because the competitave advantage given to the United States by being untouched during World War II while Europe was destroyed meant that pressures to update weren't felt until it was too late.
The way I see the U.S. industrial system is that it wants to go the easy route; it's easy to construct plants which pollute and are wasteful, which use scarce resources, because these processes are the most direct way to go about manufacturing said products. What's harder is to adapt these processes to environmental sustainability and non-pollution, both for the workers and the communities in which they are part of and for the world as a whole.
But we refuse to make changes, to implement harder but smarter ways of doing things which places like Europe and Japan, buoyed by the necessity of reconstruction after industrial devastation, have already done. Instead, we stubbornly refuse to make any concessions, to keep the wasteful way of operating that we developed in the post-war world, and we're forcing the rest of the world to accomodate us, both by force, as in Iraq, and by less obvious coercion, like in the torpedoing of the Kyoto protocols and other international agreements, to say nothing of what we're currently doing internally, the deregulation and pollution of our industries that has global consequences.
Fighting for a socialist society in the United States doesn't mean just fighting for social justice, although that's at its core, it also means fighting against the most regressive model of capitalism in the world, an anchor for some of the worst practices available world wide which drives us and the third world back into 19th century conditions of exploitation, pollution, and oppression.
Internally fighting to change the system means, if we're succesful, ending this bastion, this support of regression, of untrammelled capitalist excess, and moving the whole world forward to a sustainable future.