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History helps us look ahead to a better future

As we enjoy the Christmas season, John Myhill is looking ahead to the anniversaries we will be celebrating, or remembering, in 2018.

Next year will see the fiftieth anniversary of a number of important events from 1968 which are still very important today: -

January 8: Harold Wilson endorsed the Backing Britain campaign. 

March 1: Commonwealth Immigration Act limited who could enter the U.K. 

April 20: (Hitler’s birthday) - Enoch Powell gave his “Rivers of Blood” speech, which led to his dismissal from the Cabinet. 

November 26: Race Relations Act, which some would say marked the start of political correctness, and others would say was the start of pretending the issue did not exist.   Is Britain a Christian country and can we cope with the increasing immigration of non-Christians?  What does it feel like be a Christian minority today?
April 27: The Abortion Act and May 22: The first women priests in the Church of Scotland.  These were feminist triumphs, and both have been the start of greater changes, but continue to leave many Christians feeling ignored, and alienated from the law.   Have we accepted these changes to basic Bible teaching?  In which case, what changes would you not accept?
March 17: The Grosvenor Square protest by young people, against the American Embassy and the horrors of the Vietnam War: This was violently supressed by the police in a way that future generations of young people have come to expect when making legal protests.  Learning to turn the other cheek and love your enemies is never easy: but can we be Christian if we have never had the choice between a passive and a violent response?
June 10: The introduction of Prescription Charges, which some would see as the first step in dismantling the NHS, and returning health to the status of another commodity, that we pay for directly rather than through taxation.  Did the Welfare state make us a more or a less caring society? 
Going back a hundred years to 1918, March 4 saw the first cases of Spanish Flu in Kansas: an infection that went on to kill millions of war-weakened people worldwide.  A punishment similar to the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7 to 12).  September 25 that year saw the first blood transfusion.  Giving blood is a wonderful opportunity for Christian compassion.
July 17 saw the execution of the Russian Tsar and his family, reminding us of the peril of totalitarian power, no different from the perils of the Roman Emperors of Jesus’ day.  August 4 was the day Adolf Hitler was given the iron cross for bravery on the recommendation of Hugh Gutman, his Jewish commanding officer!
November 11, 1918 will, of course, be remembered by all.
As a Quaker, I shall be remembering February 24, 1968 and the discovery, by Jocelyn Bell Burnell, of the first Pulsar; and on July 30 1718 the death of William Penn, one of the founding fathers of Quakerism who gave his name to the State of Pennsylvania. 
I wonder what milestones you will remember next year, and what insights those historical events will bring to your view of the world today?
So, what is the Self?  Who are you really?
1)            You are not the vivid sense of different parts of your body and their workings, as this can be lost in stroke and brain damage.
2)            Likewise, the emotions can be lost or changed.  Obsession with abstract thoughts, becoming pedantic, argumentative and garrulous can all be results of brain damage.
3)            We can even lose our sense of free will, of having any choice: feeling we are mere puppets, controlled from elsewhere: akinetic mutism is the conviction that the person can do nothing.
4)            And we can lose the ability to make new memories, thus being frozen in time; or of course progressively lose all our memories through dementia.
But we all experience consciousness in the moment.  I would say that consciousness goes beyond our individual self to be part of the consciousness of God: a light worth following.
It is God’s present to us, started in a stable: a past worth remembering this present Christmas.

The image above is courtesy of 


JohnMyhill450John Myhill is a Norwich Quaker, retired magistrate and author. His blog is at

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Network Norwich and Norfolk > People > Opinion > History helps us look ahead to a better future

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