How do you make poverty sound better? Rebrand it! | Arwa Mahdawi

Having to take several jobs and sending kids to work used to be a sign of living precariously now its just a question of what your side hustle is

Listen carefully. I am about to divulge the secret of financial success. I have deduced a failsafe way to amass a lot of money, even if you earn very little. It doesnt involve cutting down on avocado toast, crocheting your own clothes or working eight jobs; its effort-free. Ready to have your mind blown? Well, if you want to buy a house at 22, retire at 32 or just not be poor at any age, make sure you have rich parents. Failing that, secure a generous inheritance from a grandparent. Like I said, super easy. I dont know why more people dont try it!

Please dont think I am being glib. I point this out because it needs to be pointed out. There seems to be some sort of millennial morality tale published every day a smug treatise with a headline such as: I saved $100,000 on a salary of just $30,000 a year; Extreme frugality allowed me to retire at 32; or How we saved 30,000 in three years while paying a mortgage. A few paragraphs into the article, the financial whizz sagely dispensing advice about hard work and thriftiness typically mentions an inheritance or notes that their parents let them live at home rent-free for years. This detail is glossed over, so said financial whizz can explain how, rather than benefiting from intergenerational wealth, it was switching to a cheaper brand of makeup that made all the difference to their bank account.

The ubiquity of these articles frustrates and fascinates me. Once upon a time, we might have labelled their authors as members of the elite. Today, however, belonging to the elite apparently has nothing to do with how much money you have or how you obtained it. Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage all rail against global elites without irony. The elite has been redefined to reflect your politics, not your purse.

Just as privilege has been rebranded, so, too, has poverty. The new way of spelling unemployed is self-employed. Freelancer or entrepreneur are other sanitising synonyms for todays precariat. According to the Office for National Statistics, the rapid growth of self-employment has been a pronounced feature of the UK labour market in recent years, up from 3.3 million people in 2001 to 4.8 million in 2017. Another feature of the UK labour market is how much harder people are working to earn less. Self-employed people tend to take less time off work for sickness, helping to drive down the sickness absence rate in the UK, noted the Telegraph, approvingly.

In the past, working several jobs to get by wasnt considered something to aspire to. But in todays gig economy, its trendy. You are encouraged to have a side-hustle or three. Even children are encouraged to monetise themselves. Last year, Bauer Media launched a US magazine called Teen Bo$$, aimed at eight-to-15-year-old girls with an interest in entrepreneurship. Its pastel cover features stories such as How to make money online right now; How to build your brand by being you and How to make quick cash this winter break. Child labour has never looked so fabulous!

Yet while we seem to be working harder, productivity doesnt seem to equate to progress. Child poverty in the UK is getting worse; meanwhile, and more than two-thirds of UK children living in poverty are from families where at least one parent is working. Its getting increasingly difficult for the Tories to argue that work is the best route out of poverty.

Sheer broetry: how LinkedIn spawned a new literary form

Seventeenth-century Britain had the Metaphysical poets. The early 19th century had Romantic poetry. The 50s had beat poetry. Now, in the glorious 21st century, we are blessed with an inspiring new form of poetic expression, dubbed LinkedIn broetry.

If you have perused your professional network in recent months, you have probably come across an example of such broetry also known as the LinkedIn Haiku. Its normally penned by someone whose job title contains the word guru, influencer, or evangelist and consists of a banal anecdote masquerading as an inspirational tale, told in a series of one-line paragraphs. For example: A prospective employee FAILED the interview / I still hired her / Why? / I saw something that COULDNT be measured / My vision paid off / and on and on for about 20 more double-spaced sentences that end in a self-congratulatory conclusion.

Why would such tripe become popular? Well, for the same reason everything becomes popular these days: algorithms. Last year, some social media genius discovered that single-paragraph updates did inordinately well on LinkedIn. Thus, through the opportunistic gaming of oblique algorithms, a new literary genre was born.

Its not just broetry: a plethora of new literary forms are appearing. Take, for example, the absurdist Amazon review. Amazon is often unfairly accused of damaging the publishing industry, but it has become an important platform for easy, albeit often profit-free, self-publishing. Who needs books when you can spend an instructive afternoon browsing through extremely creative reviews for everything from Kleenex to gummy bears?

Then there is the TripAdvisor travelogue, which has taken the art of complaining and pursuit of pettiness to dizzying new heights. Not to mention the viral Gumtree ad and the social media apology. It truly is a brave new literary world out there.

No need to panic about condom snorting, yet

Snortingly good? Photograph: Andrew Paterson/Getty Images

Apparently, condom snorting is a viral trend now among feckless, fame-hungry teens. This is according to breathless reports in the news anyway, with Fox and Newsweek reporting that gangs of teenagers, bored with eating Tide pods laundry detergent capsules are now snorting the said contraceptives as if they were cocaine. Having thoroughly investigated the matter, that is, having watched various gruesome YouTube videos for evidence, I am pleased to report that rumours of a condom-snorting epidemic are greatly exaggerated. So, in short, the kids are probably all right. As for the adults, well, Im not so sure.

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