As part of my research for my thesis I watched a Japanese trilogy called The Human Condition (人間の条件）, which was a Japanese movie set against the Japanese occupation of Manchuria. Although the movie was melodramatic, one line stayed with me which was (roughly remembered):
It seems my biggest sin in something I can't be blamed for, being Japanese
The hero Kaji (梶) tries and fails to implement a more humane form of colonialism. It's failure is that the very structure of colonialism and its presumptions are inhumane. In Brian Friel's The Home Place the "anthropological" projects that were going on represent the guise of something that looks innocent enough but is actually equally part of the colonial machine. That Christopher allows these projects to be carried out angered me, but when Con interrupts Richard's experiment by threatening the harmless and benevolent Christopher, some of the anger was replaced with pity, This made me think of the usual response to the descendents of Planters in Northern Ireland and its usual association with the Israeli occupation of Palestine (in Northern Ireland this can be observed by the Israeli and Palestinian flags flying alongside the tricolour and the Union Jack on telegraph poles and wall murals throughout the North.)
But to go back to the point I raised from The Human Condition we come to the question of responsibility, blame and inheritance. All the planters who made a conciouss choice to take part (for whatever reason) in the colonial project in Northern Ireland are now long dead. The rest were born into a status quo. There is, in essence, a difference between maintaining the colonial system you were born into and making a choice to partake in a colonial project - and so there is a difference between the descendents of Protestant (English/Scottish) planters in Northern Ireland and the first generation colonialists who are pushing into the Gaza Strip for more territory. Can one then blame someone for being born? One can say that this person once born can choose to fight the colonial machinery, but this is fighting to annhilate himself. The problem with blame in postcolonialism is the ephermeral nature of human life.
The Irish characters in the play are sympathetic to this situation, they take exception only to Richard Gore's measuring of the head sizes of "natives" but respect that Christopher was a good landlord and a generous man - even if born into a colonial household. This does not stop him feeling a traitor to "his kind".
The conclusion Friel draws is unclear. The threat of violence in the play seems almost a superegoic voice of history, enunciating the crimes of the Gores's forefathers. But how long can one hold on to past wrongdoings, when does a colonized settlement or territory become just a "home"?