"peak Culture"

I may of just invented this? I don’t know if it was the Athenians before Rome, Victorian England or the 1950’s USA but I know it sure can’t be in the future!!

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Good invention
'50’s America and Victorian England do have some similarities particularly in the pace of progress in science and engineering.

IMO you chose some odd benchmarks for “peak culture”.

Athens reached its height of wealth and power long before Rome conquered it. Athens was at its zenith in 404 BC when it lost a bloody 20-year war with the Spartans. After that it never really recovered. In 388 BC, as a diminished city, it was conquered again by Alexander the Great. Rome didn’t take over until 146 BC.

As for Britain, why choose the Victorian Age as its zenith? The British Empire, as usually reckoned, lasted from 1757 to 1947: 190 years. The Victorian Age lasted 64 of those years, 1837 to 1901, 1/3 of the existence of the Empire, and it changed considerably in those 64 years. So what are you considering the zenith of the empire, the beginning of the age or the end?

What is your yardstick? Wealth? The empire was at is wealthiest in 1914, 13 years after the Victorian Age had ended. It was at its largest in 1919 in terms of landmass, but Britain was arguably wealthier in land in 1776, 61 years before the Victorian Age began, when the Empire still owned the American colonies and held sway over much of the North American hinterland.

Population? Ask the Irish if they think the Empire of which they were a part “peaked” in the Victorian Age. The island lost 25% of it population in the VA.

By the way, the British Empire thrived on colonial trade. It derived much of its wealth from extracting raw materials from its colonies, which it then turned into manufactured goods and sold back to the colonies, which were prevented by law and tariffs from buying from other sources. (One of the practices, by the way, that caused the Americans to rebel in 1776.) When Britain lost its colonies, it lost this captive market, and lost its great wealth–but not until 1947.

Why choose the 1950s as a benchmark for American prosperity? In the 1950s millions of men worked in factories, putting Spring 37 in Hole K all day long. Fun. Or they fought a vicious war in Korea. Nightly TV was filled with Communist witch trials. On the weekends a lot of people built fallout shelters for the atomic war they were sure was coming. And if they were Black they worried about being lynched with impunity, without the ability to vote to rectify things. The 1950s hardly seems a golden age.

When people nowadays look back to the 1950s as a golden era, they are like the English in the Victorian Age bemoaning how the Industrial Revolution destroyed the countryside, depopulated villages, fouled the air and rivers, and turned “happy farmers” into factory slaves. The good old days were over.

The biggest change in technology since the Industrial Revolution, the Digital Revolution, began in 1980s, accelerated in the 1990s, and exploded in the 2000s. Who leads the world in this revolution? The USA.

The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black, Black Oil makes for a good read and a great play.

An imagined version of the 1950s that never actually existed is a “dream world” that many in the USA seem to think was the best time ever and want to bring back. Times actually were pretty good if you were a healthy white male with a halfway decent job. This was the peak of unionized blue-collar workers living a middle class life and the high marginal tax rates kept a lot of money flowing into various things other than offshore accounts and 5th and 6th mansions.
What people always seem to forget:
The world had just suffered an enormously destructive war and the industrialized world was basically rebuilding from rubble except for the USA. We had maybe 20 years or more of not much competition. At least through the 60s European cars were exotic and Japanese cars were a bad joke. No one working the GM assembly line in 1959 was worried about Mazda taking their job.
The social unrest of the 1960s was not invented in 1965, the vicious discrimination and sexism of the 50s was already generating unrest. The 50s were very much NOT any kind of paradise for minorities nor women looking for a career. Also note we had people suffering from 3rd world levels of malnutrition in Appalachia, treaties with Indian nations were still considered a joke, pollution was rampant, we were still using lead paint, we still had lead in gas, and so on.
As for the Victorian era, that was a libertarian free-for-all in many ways. If you wanted to make your employees deliver nitroglycerin on a unicycle or work waist-deep in a cyanide pit, well that was your business and they could always quit if they didn’t like it. A lot of wealth was created quickly and a lot of social issues threatened to explode just as quickly. It was not sustainable in any way long term, a lot of what we take for granted now in way of worker protection and social programs had there start at the end of this era when even the richest people realized how dangerous a huge desperate underclass could be.
There are also some people that associate Victorian with prudish behaviour. YMMV on if you think rigid sexual mores are a good thing, but the idea that people actually followed them is ROFLMAO funny. Middle and upper class women more or less had to at least look they did, but for everyone else it was nickle-night at the whorehouse with free beer. Every kind of deviant activity you could imagine was being pursued in London at least with great vigor, it was sadly also an era when child prostitutes were very common. Don’t forget Jack the Ripper, he was “Victorian”.


Freighterman/Ysailor, You guys have put more though into this that I ever did. My observation is probably just following the rule of law as my thinking was spawned by reading headlines of the latest happenings in downtown Portland Or.
Yes, the Athenians were early on the scene and one might even consider persha as a leader except as a Iraq veteran I didn’t include mooslims !!
anyway, it is interesting. and wealth didn’t figure into it, probably just what are considered ''cultural norms"" well behaved populace … law and order that sort of thing. It is nice to see people who consider this, and Freighterman I like reading of early grecian history, 500bc up till Rome snagged it.

“Well behaved”??
The Victorian era was NOT that in any way. Both London and New York, for a couple of examples, had rampant criminal activity and gangs.
The 1950s had a bunch of domestic terrorists running around the south terrorizing and killing people. Any minor issue in Portland is a vacation day compared to that stuff.

The main thrust of my thinking in a way relates to the collapse of societies after the fall of Rome.
I do believe it is entirely possible our world could devolve back into the dark ages. the regression of advanced education is but one example what with the mass censorship and intolerance becoming so common.
The lowering standard of living so fewer people have less money to spend resulting in diminished creativity and investment, purchashing etc.
but ultimately I’d say in a nutshell, things are not getting better. Look at the USA with a bunch of ideologs walking this country right into the next world war. How’s the winter looking for central Europe? etc. etc. etc. … yea, I’d think things were certainly better in 1965 than now but I can see how this thread will go to pieces in short order so i shall refrain.

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Were you actually around in 1965?
The draft was in full effect, the Vietnam war was heating up, the President of the USA had just been assassinated, MLK and RFK were shortly going to be assassinated, rampant discrimination and oppression had already caused a couple of big urban riots with plenty more on the way, vicious southern reactions against the voting rights act and desegregation were either already underway or about to be, and a blatantly criminal president was about to be elected.
If those are the GOOD old days, I would hate to see what you think of as bad times.


I was around then
Back then I had to worry more about what I did,
Now I have to worry more about what I say or even think.

yea, I was around ‘then’. though only about ten years old. What could of been a intriguing subject quickly devolved and I will do my part to close this.

It is true mind reading technology did not exist in 1965 and one could think whatever one desired. As far as I know, it also does not exist now, but I guess I could be wrong. If so, I am liable to be in BIG trouble, especially if my wife gets ahold of the daily report!

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I guess i meant I have to worry about what I think and be vigilant in my self censorship of what I say.
Wives don’t need mind reading abilities, they are already sure they KNOW what your thinking and they will tell you.

Could Peak Culture be defined by a culture’s peak acheivement, something like the Moon Landings ?

Well yes, tolerance for some kinds of bad behaviour in some jobs has diminished quite a bit. I still remember riding jumpseat on a 737 and having the pilot refer to the cabin crew as “menu items”. Thankfully that kind of thing doesn’t go over all that well anymore in most places.

As for overall “peak culture”, I have no real way to define it. Everyone would look at it from a different perspective. Some of it is pretty obviously bad, like say Nazi Germany vs. either the Wiemar Republic or present day Germany. If you are gay or have gay family members, you don’t have to go back too far to a time when it was illegal to get married and not too much farther back to where it was illegal to just exist. Likewise at one time interracial marriage was not legal in all states. That kind of thing is hugely important to some people and other people may not care one bit or perhaps even miss that kind of thing. YMMV is an understatement!

EDIT - One thing many people miss about the late 60s space program is it seems like we could do ANYTHING if we set our minds to it, now it seems like any attempt at any advancement is met by 15 years of studies, environmental impact statements, and Congress spreading whatever program it is out over all 50 states and then trying to cancel it because it costs too much for some reason no one can be sure of, but it can’t possibly be shipping every piece all over the country.

Yes it was a great feeling thinking that anything could be achieved
It seems to have devolved into the relese of a new model mobile phone is a great achievement.

Was that feeling a kind of “Peak Optimism” ?

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Charles Dickens put it rather succinctly in the opening line of Tale of Two Cities; It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…


I support your concern but how else are we supposed to keep up with the Kardashians. I just read this in my local paper.

Dear Abby,

I’m writing for a friend. He told me he feels like we’re all trapped in the movie idiocracy, powerless to stop the madness. He says what we have here is a failure of leadership. He says we’re manipulated by a bunch of clowns who don’t mind rending the fabric of society on their way to the top. It’s a stage play created for our amusement.
The play illustrates a classic struggle for power performed by skilled actors who make the performance as realistic as possible. One is personified as a bombastic know it all used car salesman who communicates by tweets and repetitious rants, and an aging politician cashing in on his long undistinguished career. My friend says he has handlers who hide his rapid cognitive decline to protect him from scrutiny.
And now I just saw on the news that the FBI has some interest in his son’s thin veneer as a painter of fine art and his Chinese clientele. But I digress.

Abby, should I call the medic or just beef up his overtime? Eagerly awaiting your response.

Captain Diego Garcia, currently stationed in a secret location.