I ran across a great quote from the classic British film noir of 1949, The Third Man. It really sums up a lot about history, culture, society and the like. I guess it is a bit reductive and leaves a lot out, but I thought it was worth repeating nonetheless.
"In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed - but they produced Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."