A Farewell to Arms

What did Henry mean by "They were beaten to start with. They were beaten when they took them from their farms and put them in the army. That is why the peasant has wisdom, because he is defeated from the start. Put him in power and see how wise he is."

In chapter 26, page 179, line 10 - 13

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Henry is referring to the farmers and shepherds who countries put into their armies and march to their slaughter. These farmers are have their souls ripped out of them when that are separated from their land. These farmers merely fight to survive and not very well at that. Henry recognizes a wisdom within these farmers that die by the thousands. It is a wisdom that is grounded in common sense, nurturing and foresight. Henry feels that if farmers were put in charge instead of soulless politicians or bloodthirsty generals, the world would be a much better place.