We're all to be blamed for not realizing the truth, actually. But our sources of news are driven by economics, which means they have to live and die by their ability to sell newspapers, magazines, online eyeballs, advertisers' products, or whatever. This leads to what Nicholas Kristof calls in this op-ed piece a true selection bias that leads directly to a corresponding bias in public opinion.
We're making progress in our quest to uplift all of humanity. It's just not considered real news to report that this is the case. And it isn't, really. The process has been been a slow, painful climb whose progress isn't exhilarating so much as it is tedious to watch. Except, of course, by those who benefit from that progress: poverty stricken countries, decaying inner cities, and moribund agrarian populations that couldn't make any progress against commodity market price reductions.
The idea of farming, mining, and other ancient and labor intensive jobs as ways of life is slowly dying and being replaced with automation, economies of scale, and higher technology solutions to creating society's base materials. We're now seeing populations whose leaders are forced to turn to other means to keep the gravy train going for themselves. Formerly ruthless dictators of countries filled with abject poverty are seeing the writing on the wall and inviting education and investment to enrich their countries so they can get even richer. This last bit is a negative side effect of this progress, and it will eventually have to be resolved. But for now it's not such a bad thing that some asshole at the top of a poor country sucks a little of the oxygen out of the room if everyone else gets some too.
We need to see what's true and not just what's reported. It would be very helpful if world economic progress were something that was studied and encouraged actively rather than as a passive side effect of famines, forced migration, capitalism's endless search for new markets, and the like.
Making profits is great as long as it isn't carried too far on the backs of the wrong people. When those backs finally break and the profits stop flowing, there are those who seem to wake up and realize, "Hey. We could invest in those people just a little and get a great new cash cow out of it in a few years!"
Well yes. Let's do that then.