Helping ourselves?: Update
First of all, thanks to all of you who have read and commented - either here or elsewhere - on the post below.
Special thanks to Vanessa for pointing me in the direction of this Rod Liddle article in The Times which examines the reasons behind the extraordinary generosity of the British public on this occasion and, effectively, says it all much more eloquently than I could - "I wonder how many people rang the credit card hotline and, deliberating how much to give, suddenly recalled that they’d recently spent £29 in Debenhams on a presentation box of lavender soaps for their ghastly mother-in-law? Shame was already poking its nose over the parapet, even before the tsunami struck. It was the time of year when the British people were at their most morally vulnerable ... We were not harangued or bullied into giving money by mouthy, overpaid, has-been pop stars or self-righteous and unfunny comedians wearing red plastic noses. There was almost no haranguing of any kind. Just a regular reminder of where you could give money, if you wanted to. The public was left to its own devices and to make its own judgment. If we felt guilty about our own wellbeing or affluence, it was a natural and genuine response to tragedy, rather than something we were told to feel.".
Thanks also to Jonathan for alerting me to a similarly excellent Guardian article by Blake Morrison debating the value of silences - "To the sceptical, today's three-minute silence can't help but seem a shallow and belated gesture of sympathy. But to refuse to observe it just because Blair, Bush and various tainted western agencies approve of it would be perverse. Public silence in medias res - abandoning normal routines to remember the dead - has been a powerful tradition since the Armistice. And if the greatest natural disaster in our life time isn't worth commemorating, then what is?".
Jonathan's response to Morrison's article, and to posts by myself and Nick, can be found here.
Finally, a BBC story about how texting and blogging has helped the rescue and relief operation.