‘Welcome. My name is Gorith, and I’m the curator responsible for this wing of the Galactic Central Archives. I’m very pleased to see you. It’s not often anyone’s permitted to come and study here, so you’re extremely privileged.
‘Now, I’m sure you understand the rules. You may draw general conclusions of an anthropological, sociological or phenomenological nature from these records, but you may not include detailed and specific information on the Activity. . . Sorry? . . . Oh yes, that’s what it’s called these days, ‘The Activity’ nothing more, and your references to it must be carefully disguised. I will have to search you and check your notes each day to ensure nothing leaves the department. I know you’ve been told that even after your work has been checked you must publish with us because we cannot risk the detailed information we hold here getting into other hands; so if you would be so kind, please read this document carefully, and sign it when you’ve done so. It’s your contract with the Central Archives, your agreement to allow your work to be seen by the official censors before we publish it, your promise to leave your notes and drafts with us, and never to talk about The Activity you’ve studied here.’
‘What? Oh, well, of course you could talk about it on Terra, though they might not thank you for doing so. But, it’s a long way to the other arm of the galaxy, and few passenger ships are heading to Terra just now, so I shouldn’t think your chances of getting there at present are great. Still, that’s not the point of the rule – you mustn’t talk about it here or on any other world of the Egality.
‘Thank you, that’s the official stuff dealt with. If you have any questions, or if you need anything, do please ask, I’ll be only too happy to help. Please use this room for your refreshment breaks – you’ll understand that food or drink can’t be taken among the shelves.’
‘Come on in. . .have a seat. How’re you getting on? . . . Good. . . Yes, it’s a fascinating subject, and that’s part of the problem, and what made it so dangerous in its last years.
‘It’s astonishing how something which had been enjoyed for nearly a thousand years without doing any harm, could suddenly become so powerful that it could bring a whole world to its knees. Our specialists believe it was the weakness of the Terran governmental system which allowed it to get such a deathly grip; no politician dared to try to control it. In that final era there was no other activity strong enough to stand up against it, and the self-regulation was run by those devotees who stood to benefit most from it. We compared it to a deadly virus in a body so weak it could no longer defend itself.
‘Yes, it’s been forbidden now for two hundred Terran years, ever since it so nearly destroyed them. The Supreme Council, recognising how dangerously addictive it was, outlawed it right across the Egality of Worlds; and only just in time – it already had a foothold on several other planets, and it was a prolonged struggle to eradicate it.
‘Of course getting it under control on Terra took several decades. Those most addicted were prepared to go on fighting for it even when they had no resources for their daily lives. It was most astonishing and frightening to see how those who’d never actually taken part in the Activity, were the most ferocious in the fight to hold on to it.
‘Poorer nations which had been totally bankrupted by it were even willing to lose their schools and hospitals in order to hold onto it, and the trading involved was completely out of control towards the end. More money was exchanged for one single unit than anyone could dream of spending in a lifetime; sums equal to a small nation’s entire annual income. And all the while the life of the whole planet was sliding into a downward spiral which took them to the very brink of extinction. It was quite unbelievable.
‘Yes, of course, the money they were spending on it could have solved the planet’s problems in a matter of months, but it was impossible to get them to see that.
‘No, no it hasn’t completely disappeared. A huge number of children were already addicted to it – the addiction can take hold by the age of three! – and after much consultation it was agreed that since it’s only really dangerous when adults are involved, and particularly adults in large urban conurbations, it was agreed it would be unreasonable to try to wipe it out entirely. So parents continue to teach the Activity to their children. But I’m reliably informed that adults continue to play. . .sorry, take part in the Activity among themselves in their private gardens, and derive a great deal of satisfaction from teaching it to their little ones. The young ones are allowed to take part in it as a hobby until they reach fifteen of their years, after which time they have to give up any formal participation in it.
‘Even their meetings are tightly controlled – they can only take place within each town and its immediate locality. The conurbations have been divided into small sub-sections, boundaries have been clearly laid down and anyone involving a child in the Activity outside their home area can face extreme penalties. But most importantly, there’s no longer any money involved.’
‘Do you think so?. . .Well you may be right. Perhaps despite all the damage it did it’s such an important part of their cultural identity they’d be lost without it.
‘However that may be, seeing what happened, and how it took the better part of a century for Terra’s economy to recover from its excesses, I believe the Supreme Council were right to destroy all the vids, to lock these records away, and to make it strictly forbidden on all other worlds.’
I leave you to decide on what the Activity in this monologue is!! I’ve been told it’s obvious.