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A Treason of The Heart by David Pryce Jones

David Pryce Jones

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On March 17, 2014
Last modified:March 15, 2014


A Treason of the Heart is an incredibly depressing book, the equivalent of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities. Both books share the distinction of featuring characters with little, if any, redeeming value. At least Wolfe’s book is fiction. It is about British people who have taken up foreign causes - often in direct conflict with their own country.

It is an interesting book, but it isn’t a lot of fun to read.

a-treason-of-the-heartA Treason of the Heart is an incredibly depressing book.  This reviewer found it to be the equivalent of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities.  Both books share the distinction of featuring characters with little, if any, redeeming value.  At least Wolfe’s book is fiction.

The first sentence of the book’s introduction sums up what the book is about.

A Treason of the Heart is about British people who have taken up foreign causes.

Jones explains that it isn’t just any foreign cause du jour, but rather those that do the most harm to their own country.

Radicals in one generation after another repeatedly reject their own nation and countrymen, transferring their loyalties on to some other model in impressive instances of wishful thinking and ignorance of the true state of things.

The author explains that he is referring to actual treason in the truest sense of the word.  It was not mere hyperbole to make an eye-catching title.

According to Jones, there is a long history of British liberals adopting nonsensical positions, often to the detriment of the very people that they are trying to rescue.  In many cases, these misguided fools actively worked against their own nation, and in some were actually executed for treason.   Such cases brought the only respite from a long train of despicable actions by despicable people.  This reader found himself thinking, “served him right!”

Although the book covers only British exemplars, there are certainly many similarities to liberals in the United States today.

The overthrow of despotism and the triumph of liberty were the declared objectives, even though the outcome might very well be a stronger despotism and a compromised liberty.

One has only to think of 20th century Americans like Margaret Sanger, John Dewey, and Jane Fonda,  to name a few, who were enthralled with Hitler, Stalin, and the communist leadership of Vietnam, respectively.

Whether a cause concerns foreigners or ultimately the political disposition England, those associated with it are almost invariably indifferent to the implicit violence and killing — that is, if they are not active participants.

A Treason of the Heart chronicles an uninterrupted chain of successive generations of these people, starting with Thomas Paine.

Most Americans have a skewed view of Paine because of his rightfully acknowledged impact on the success of the American Revolution through his Crisis Papers and Common Sense.  However, America repaid the debt it owed to Paine by intervening on his behalf when he ran afoul of the Revolutionary movement in France he had helped usher into power.  The Rights of Man provides a more complete view of the man.  But, while this is true, Jones explains that Paine’s abiding hatred of Britain was as much a motivator for his actions as any political philosophy.

Paine symbolized the beginning of a long succession people who loathed the very country which provided them with leisure and luxury.

English men and women who had experienced firsthand the bloody excesses of the French Revolution, then, were not inclined to be grateful to their own country for sparing them anything of the kind. Like Mary: Wollstonecroft, Wordsworth felt repugnance that England was not following the French example but on the contrary opposing it militarily.

Generations of British elites looked for causes in Greece, Armenia, Turkey, and even Israel (briefly).  Many of these members of the British aristocracy projected a notion of the noble savage on peoples that, in reality were not noble at all.   Unfortunately, this idiocy continued into the 20th century and beyond.

The vileness of Malcolm Caldwell exceeds even these examples. The son of a Scottish miner, he became a university lecturer in London, and was in his 30s when he took up the cause of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. That regime was responsible for the deaths of at least 2 million people, or about a third of Cambodia’s population. A thorough liar, Caldwell had no interest in facts, and worse, no interest in human beings. For him, this mass murder had not occurred, and if it did then it was part of a worldwide revolutionary shift “holding out the promise of a better future for all.” In December 1978 he had a private audience with Pol Pot. Some hours afterwards, a gunman shot him dead.  Quite possibly Poll Pot had him murdered, which would be poetic justice of a sort. The crime remains unsolved, as mysterious and murky as Caldwell’s psychology. What seems common to these various defenders of tyranny is a disposition to violence and cruelty, leading them to admire vicariously whoever has the requisite will and power to dispense with every moral restraint in pursuit of some enormity.

Sadly, it isn’t difficult to see a great many parallels in the United States, in which growing numbers of the left evince a loathing for their own country, while at the same time enjoying all of the privileges being an American bestows on them.

Although the people covered in A Treason of the Heart were despicable and stupid, at least they thought they were fighting for people.  American so-called environmentalists are downright misanthropic when it comes to their causes – regardless of the facts.  Take for example the man-made drought destroying farmers in CA.

This is a classic tale of activist government run amok — and, too, of the peculiarly suicidal instincts that rich and educated societies exhibit when they reach maturity. Were its consequences not so hideously injurious, the details would be almost comical. As a direct result of the overwrought concern that a few well-connected interest groups and their political allies have displayed for a fish — and of a federal Endangered Species Act that is in need of serious revision — hundreds of billions of gallons of water that would in other areas have been sent to parched farmland have been diverted away from the Central Valley and deliberately pushed out under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the Pacific Ocean, wasted forever, to the raucous applause of Luddites, misanthropes, and their powerful enablers. The later chapters of “The Decline and Fall of the United States” will make interesting reading.

But, like the British aristocracy, these people have a cause that can’t be argued against with facts.

Make no mistake: The rare, hard-done-by, and rightly protected manatee the Delta smelt is not. According to some estimates, there are no more than 3,000 manatees left in the United States, and, when left unchecked, human beings have had a nasty tendency to maim and kill them in the service of nothing more exalted than speed-boating. By contrast, when the Great Smelt Freakout of 2007 began, there were 35,000 to well over 100,000 of the little buggers, depending on whom you ask. And yet the powers that be have seen fit to decree that no more than 305 of them may be killed in a given year. As an exasperated Harry Cline, of the Western Farm Press, put it in February 2012, last year “800,000 acre-feet of water went to waste based on the science of four buckets of minnows. That is enough water to produce crops on 200,000 acres or 10 million tons of tomatoes; 200 million boxes of lettuce; 20 million tons of grapes. You get the picture?”

“When they do their fish surveys,” the California Water Alliance’s Aubrey Bettencourt tells me, with a wry smile, “they kill thousands of the smelt. It’s ridiculous. Last year they killed 3,500.” In other words, I suggest, the government kills ten times the number that are allowed to be killed every year in order to find out how many have died.  

To paraphrase George Bush, apparently you have to kill the fish to save the fish.  Unfortunately they don’t need saving.  Just as America is the heir to England in culture, today’s “environmentalists” are the logical heirs to the people Jones writes about in A Treason of the Heart.

Jones is to be credited for his mental fortitude as well as his in-depth research into a group of thoroughly repugnant historical figures.  For a British subject, the research must have been akin to an intellectual visit to the proctologist.  It might be necessary and enlightening, but it couldn’t have been fun to chronicle one’s country’s slow decline.  Those hoping to find some cheer in the epilog, hope in vain.  The author explains that, basically since Thomas Paine’s time, significant portions of the British elite have been seemingly hell-bent on committing national and cultural suicide.  The latest incarnation of this tendency is Britain’s surrendering of much of its sovereignty to the EU.    According to Jones, a series of prime ministers have carried this tendency ….

headlong in the surrender of sovereignty, sometimes against their will but apparently powerless to decide on any other course of action, perhaps too blind or too cowardly to do so.

Once this shift reaches its culmination…

… the transfer of loyalties to a foreign cause will be complete, and there will no longer be the Britain of the past to betray.

A Treason of The Heart is an interesting book, but it isn’t a lot of fun to read.


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