Victor Hugo wrote in 1852: "A stand can be made against invasion by an army; no stand can be made against invasion by an idea."
How right he is. Setting aside the fact that our armed forces today couldn't make a stand against a battalion, let alone an army, there is no doubt that this country has been comprehensively invaded by ideas which, as economist John Maynard Keynes has said, "shape the course of history".
Many of the ideas which have changed the course of this nation's history have been those of politicians. And, as the American author and journalist Don Maquis observed back in 1933: "Did you ever notice that when a politician does get an idea he usually gets it all wrong?"
Many more of the ideas which have remarkably changed the way we live have come from academia. And that reminded me of the words of American literary critic Lionel Trilling, who wrote:
"This is the great vice of academicism, that it is concerned with ideas rather than with thinking, and nowadays errors of academicism ... make their way into the world, and what begins as a failure of perception among intellectual specialists finds its fulfilment in policy and action."
Scary stuff, eh? Particularly when you consider that a goodly number of our ruling politicians for the past eight years are also erstwhile academics. And that far too many half-baked ideas have become ideologies, which is just a polite word for obsessions.
These thoughts came to me after writing last week about abortion (which arose from the specious idea that a fetus is just another piece of tissue), and reading this week of how the Government is slipping further back in the polls.
Commentators are casting about for reasons this should be. Some point to failures in Labour's formerly immaculate political management, others to failures in health, justice and law and order policies, others to higher interest rates and increases in the price of such necessities as food, petrol and electricity.
But it goes deeper than that. I reckon the reason Labour has slumped in the polls is that the public has finally had an absolute gutsful of government interference in our daily lives with the imposition of legislation that has arisen from ideas that have quickly become ideologies.
Some of that legislation has been passed in spite of widespread public opposition, which has simply been ignored.
The explanation for that was succinctly given by Canadian journalist, author and activist Naomi Klein when she wrote: "The truly powerful feed ideology to the masses like fast food while they dine on the most rarefied delicacy of all - impunity."
And under our undemocratic MMP electoral system, that is what far too many of our politicians have - impunity. They need not fear public anger at the ballot box because list MPs never have to face re-election; all they have to do is make sure they don't displease the party they serve.
This force feeding of ideology to the masses will, of course, eventually make them sick. That is what has happened. The gutsful of ideology dished out, by Labour and the Greens in particular, has become so unpalatable and uncomfortable that a large majority of the electorate want no more.
The mouthful that made most New Zealanders want to spew was the passing of the anti-smacking legislation, for you can date the Government's decline in public popularity from that time.
Sue Bradford can allege what she likes about the opponents of her anti-smacking law, and the benighted Commissioner for Children Cindy Kiro can do her damndest to discredit the huge response to the two petitions asking for a referendum on child abuse and the anti-smacking law, but the fact is that polls consistently show more than 70 per cent of people remain opposed to it.
We swallowed the civil unions legislation, choked on the legalisation of prostitution and most of us get indigestion and flatulence from the new ideology blaming climate change on carbon dioxide emissions.
It is not the abject failures in health, education, justice and law and order that will bring an end to Helen Clark's rule, it is the public's growing biliousness over its arrogant and overbearing treatment of New Zealanders in areas in which the state has no right to interfere.
The anti-smacking law, invading our homes as it does and usurping our sacred rights as parents, was a morsel too many. Thus will this Government find itself spewed out of power by a fed-up majority.
Meanwhile, I go along with the poet, novelist and humorist Randall Jarrell, who said: "It is better to entertain an idea than to take it home to live with you for the rest of your life."By Garth George Email Garth