Cardassian culture stresses the importance of duty over all things: duty to family, duty to friends and fellow citizens, and duty to the state. All Cardassian citizens, whether they are soldiers or not, are expected to live or die for the Union. During their lives they are expected to serve the state selflessly in any manner they can and at any time they are called upon. While this looks good on paper, most Cardassians serve the state graciously out of one motivation: fear.
Over the shoulder of every Cardassian citizen is the Obsidian Order, peering into their public and personal lives. It is said that a Cardassian cannot sit down to eat without the meal being duly noted, categorized and approved by the Obsidian Order. This is not an exaggeration; indeed, the Obsidian Order spies on its own citizenry with great alacrity using every means at their disposal. Because of this invasion of privacy, few Cardassians living in the Union enjoy civil liberties unless powerful friends protect them. Free speech is unheard of, as people have been known to disappear for voicing their opinions. The right to bear arms is denied the civilian citizenry unilaterally, though some civilians keep some sort of weaponry in their home illegally. Assembly of the citizenry (for any reason) without proper license is grounds for arrest. Communiqués are regularly tapped, mail opened, and homes bugged. People are paid handsomely for turning in their treasonous neighbors and can usually gain vesala by doing so. Families are encouraged to do the same; after all, dedication to the state should come before blood.
Citizens are free to establish businesses so long as they have the requisite approvals from the Ministry of Industrial Affairs. The private sector exists to serve the state, and the state controls commerce with an iron hand. The military is the largest consumer for these businesses, for without the military's patronage a business is sure to fail.
Who you know, not what you know, is one of the most important factors for getting along in Cardassian society. A Cardassian's elaborate elaborate network of contacts and favors is of prime importance to them. This network is known as vesala. Vesala is used like a currency or commodity; favors are traded back and forth among members of Cardassian society for personal or political gain. This is a sort of informal stock exchange of name-dropping and favor swapping that gives a Cardassian personal power over other Cardassians.
Everything on Cardassia is available for a price. Vesala can be used to purchase promotions, political offices, titles and benefits. It is because of this that a Cardassian does not use his vesala lightly. Calling in too many favors at one time will deplete the resources, and could hinder dealings in the future. Some Cardassians perform favor after favor and rarely call their own, thus accumulating vast amounts of vesala for use in one fell swoop. One of the few things that cannot be bought with vesala is a Cardassian's social standing.
It does not matter that a Cardassian has never worked with the individual they are asking a favor from; such 'blind favors' are made all the time. Reputation means more than acquaintance. If a Cardassian is known as someone who does not repay in kind, their name will start to circulate as being untrustworthy and favors will be hard to call in. But be sure the provider can actually perform the requested favor. If they have to go through someone else, the cost in vesala can skyrocket.
By the dawn of the Second Hebitian period, a class system evolved on Cardassia. This class structure has survived for centuries, even though the government and society that spawned it did not. The social classes are, from lowest class to highest; Scralan, Ti'alek, Hibalek, Amarlek, Ra'malek, and Trelek.
This class system traditionally marks a Cardassian's place in their society and determines what she can achieve in her lifetime. Only the upper classes can attend the finest schools without someone in the upper echelons to sponsor them. If they do manage to obtain a sponsor, they will receive the education necessary for achieving great things on Cardassia.
In the past, the Cardassian class system was much more hard and fast than it is today. Socializing with those outside your class was frowned upon socially. On modern Cardassia, however, a Cardassian can actually jump classes, making the class distinction much more ephemeral. In theory a modern Cardassian is marked by his service to the state, not by an outdated and ancient class structure. Socializing, and even marriage across class lines occurs. The greater disparity between the classes, the less common this is, as the higher classes cling to their titles more than the lower classes do. A Trelek woman would probably be ostracized for courting a Ti'alek or Hibalek.
The class structure has survived and flourished despite the military's attempt to quash it. It has evolved into an undercurrent of subtle prejudice and superiority rather than a class that a Cardassian is locked into. In the eyes of the modern state, all Cardassians are equal.
The following section describes the six different social classes. When the text refers to population percentage it is referring to all Cardassians in the Union, and does not include non-Cardassians or client/servitor races.
The Scralan class really isn't a class at all, not having the 'lek' suffix (which means 'resource' in Cardassian). In fact, the word 'scralan' actually means 'useless'. The Scralan are made up of Cardassian untouchables who have fallen from Cardassian grace as well as the non-Cardassians living in the Union. These untouchables are generally met with distaste and disdain from other Cardassians (even those others of the Scralan). It is extremely difficult for the Scralan to jump class, as even noted accomplishments are met with sneers from the other social classes. Even getting small tasks accomplished is difficult, as few of the other classes will take the Scralan seriously. Generally, Scralans have little love for the other classes. Most see the other classes as a means of keeping them at the bottom of the social ladder. Approximately eight percent of the population is of the Scralan class.
The Ti'alek is the lowest of all socially acceptable Cardassians. They traditionally make up the labor class, such as janitors, ore miners and field hands. In modern Cardassia, this class still performs the work that other Cardassians find demeaning. No non-Cardassian may progress above this class level, even through dedication and service to the Union. The Ti'aleks are generally the 'have-nots' among the Cardassian people, living in the more squalid of the conditions on Cardassia, and make up approximately thirty-one percent of the populace.
The Hibalek class, next on the social ladder, is traditionally a service class. This class is usually relegated to performing service for the other Cardassians. Housekeepers, gardeners, and waiters are all examples of jobs for the Hibaleks. Most common foot soldiers come from this class, as do teachers, lawyers, and small business owners. The Hibaleks generally consider themselves lucky; while they are not the highest class, they do enjoy a certain amount of prosperity not being among the labor class. Most Hibaleks view their position among society to be necessary. They believe that without, the state could not function successfully, so they over-glorify their place in society. While they may not have power, they do have responsibilities and a strong sense of duty to perform their role in society. Approximately twenty-nine percent of the population is made up of the Hibalek class.
The Amarlek class, or Bureaucratic class, primarily made up the bureaucracy and government of the Second Hebitians. This tradition has continued, as most modern low-level Cardassian bureaucrats are recruited from this class, as are low-level military officers. The Amarleks shuffle paperwork across the data-nets for the glory of the Union. They enjoy their middle-class lives, and especially the vesala that usually comes with their positions in society. Most of the Ministries are made up of members of the Amarlek class. They generally view their little slices of Cardassian government as their own little private fiefdoms, and most tend to run them as such. Approximately fifteen percent of the population is made up of the Amarlek class.
The Ra'malek class, or Merchant class, is mostly a holdover from the glory days of the Second Hebitians. Wealthy landowners and businessmen made up the middle echelon of the government for the Second Hebitians. While the wealth has drained away for the modern Ra'malek, the families still cling to the title desperately. Even though the Ra'maleks are not as prosperous as they once were, they still enjoy a certain amount of power and vesala from their place and position in Cardassian society. This class makes up most of the high-level positions within the military and government. Approximately twelve percent of the population makes up the Ra'malek class.
The Treleks are the nobility of the Cardassian people. They have the most sway in governmental affairs (in fact, most of the Detapa Council, the leaders of the Central Command, and the leaders of the Obsidian Order come from this class). Most of Cardassia's political strife comes from the struggle of thiss class against itself, as the upper echelons of power struggle against each other for control of the government. Treleks are proud of who they are and where they come from. They look down on the other classes with smug superiority. They wield the most vesala per members than any other class, and this is what keeps them on top. The Treleks protect that power with veracity, and are generally the meanest spirited when it comes to the lower classes. They will do just about anything to protect what they have. This includes murder, treachery, and deceit. Approximately five percent of the population is made up of the Trelek class.
Education is important to the Cardassians, and all children living within the Union are instructed via the state's education system.
At the age of four, Cardassian children are given intensive mental training. At the age of six, they are placed into the primary school system where specialized instructors monitor the student's progress. These instructors, called Te'alakesh, are adept at finding what a particular student is apt to excel in. During this time, a Cardassian child lives with her family.
The Te'alakesh are arguably some of the most powerful Cardassians in the Union, for it is on their determination where a child will be placed for his future. Most Te'alakesh have great amounts of vesala as parents romance them for their child's placement. Te'alakesh work for the Ministry of Education, and some even whisper that this is merely a branch of the Obsidian Order, but there have been no foundation to these claims.
Once the Te'alakesh has identified a child's strengths and weaknesses, the child is assigned an advanced school most benefiting of their place in society, and sometimes that means that a lower-classed Cardassian will attend the finest schools through sponsorship. The Te'alakesh help the child by finding a sponsor. By showing prominent Cardassians their student's work and making suggestions to the right people, the Te'alakesh can obtain a sponsor for a promising child. Some Te'alakesh have even used their personal vesala to move lower-classed children to the ranks of the fit.
A sponsor is essentially putting his neck out on the chopping block for the pupil, as a sponsor is responsible for all actions that a student makes at her new school up until graduation. Should the student stumble, the sponsor will receive punishment and public humiliation. This makes sponsorship quite a commitment for both the student and the sponsor, but challenging the minds of the youth is something that most adult Cardassians enjoy doing. Once a Cardassian completes her advanced training years, the sponsorship ends and the sponsor is relieved of all responsibility for the young adult. Some dedicated sponsors will follow the career of the youth and watch over them, effectively becoming a patron to them.
A child completes public school at the age of nine or ten. One of a student's last acts as a child is to give a molar to the state for identification on their tenth birthday. This is seen as a rite-of-passage, and is celebrated among the family with a small informal party.
At the age of ten, a Cardassian will be placed into their advanced schooling. These advanced schools specialize in the subjects that they teach. They are structured around a three-term program consisting of three years apiece (totaling nine standard years). This program will instruct the student in whatever occupation she will eventually fill in Cardassian society with little emphasis on personal interests. There are no breaks for the student during this time, and it is unlikely that she will see her families during their advanced educations (though, regular contact is kept via the comm channels and Data-net). At the end of each term, a review of the student is held. If the student fails review, she will either repeat the term again, or, in the case of specialized schools (such as Intelligence school or the Ba'dorah Military Academy), the failed student will be placed into less prestigious school with a different, more mundane focus. These advanced academies are generally unforgiving; if the student cannot make the grade, the student does not belong in that line of work and needs more menial tasks to occupy them.
The basic layout for all Cardassian advanced education campuses is roughly the same. The school is split into two wings, one half for the males and one half for the females. Keeping the two sexes from co-mingling is the best way to keep the young Cardassian's attentions on their work and off of the opposite sex. Each wing is broken down into dormitories, where the young Cardassians live during their tenure at their school. Each dorm is further broken down into units with twenty young Cardassians in a unit. This unit eats, sleeps, trains and recreates together. Each unit consists of both upper- and lower-classmen, and usually the upper-classmen will lead the unit unless a lower-classman shows uncanny ability. This structure teaches the Cardassian youth to both work as a group but keep the details of their work secret from the others. When one member of a unit breaks a rule, the entire unit is punished. As the upperclassmen graduate, the lower-classmen rise up in the ranks of their unit, perhaps one day to become leader of it.
A typical day at a Cardassian Advanced School consists of rising before dawn for physical calisthenics. Morning meal is afterwards, where the students receive a hot breakfast and can briefly socialize with those outside of their unit. Classes begin shortly thereafter, where the Cardassian is taught their general studies. These classes are extremely challenging for the students. Midmeal is next, and more time is allocated to this endeavor so that the student may enjoy her meal. After lunch comes an hour of 'free time', where the student can do as she pleases. Afterwards, the student goes into specialized classes that apply more directly to their future position in the Union. Next, the student eats dinner, then has 3 hours to finish their studies for the day.
Upon graduation, the student immediately joins the ranks of the rest of the Cardassian citizens in their duty to the state: mandatory military service for two years. After their military time is served, they join their place in Cardassian society.
Cardassian architecture is respected throughout the Alpha Quadrant, but their engineering regulations are not as stringent as their Federation equivalent. Cardassians structures have an honesty to their design. They do not hide the columns and beams of a structure behind elegant facades. The fundamentals of Cardassian design are balance rather than symmetry, ellipses rather than circles, curves rather than right angles. Cardassian architects tend to favor the number three in many of their designs. This theme is evident throughout their cities, as on their Nor-class stations.
Much of Cardassian architecture is inspired by the work of Tavor Kell. His starkly beautiful buildings are renowned landmarks in Cardassia City and the planning departments of the government ensure that new buildings are constructed in a similar style.
The Cardassian people consider the arts to be less important than many other races do. In the resource-hungry society of Cardassia, where starvation and need are recent memories, literature, poetry and sculpture are of secondary importance. A career as an artist is considered slightly shameful in a culture whose essence is duty and service.
The Cardassian State keeps a tight reign on its artists. It recognizes that art can be a powerful motivational force. Only state sanctioned writers can be published. Only the work of state sanctioned painters and sculptors may be exhibited, and only in state-run galleries. Each individual work must undergo a long and involved approval process by the Ministry of Arts before publication or exhibition.
Literature is the most popular art form amongst the Cardassian populace and so it has the most restricted guidelines. Permitted books must actively promote Cardassian ideology or discredit Cardassia's enemies. Epics such as The Never Ending Sacrifice, which describes the service of seven generations of a family to Cardassia, are favorites amongst Cardassian readers. These books are even preferred above tales of valorous Cardassian officers defeating the schemes of dastardly Starfleet officers bent on destroying the Union with their corrupt ideals of democracy and individuality.
Cardassians who travel and the upper classes have access to non-Cardassian literature. Dante's Inferno, Tolstoy's War and Peace, K'Ratak's The Dream of the Fire are all highly regarded works. The Cardassians appreciate Shakespeare's dramas but despise the comedies - particularly Romeo and Juliet, in which the two lovers chose love over family.
The visual arts - painting, sculpture and holo-photography - are not highly regarded by the general populace. Spending time admiring such works is considered wasteful. There are only a handful of galleries on Cardassia prime, all of which are filled with depictions of family life and Cardassians at war. Cardassia IV maintains a museum of Hebitian works that have not been sold off in the past, such as the bone carvings from the First Hebitian period.
Many Cardassians express themselves artistically in the privacy of their homes and only their friends and family ever view their work. The practical mentality of Cardassians means that many use crafts as a creative outlet. Elaborately carved furniture or highly decorated potteries are more appreciated than objects d'art by many Cardassians.
The underground movement attracts artists of all varieties who seek freedom of expression. Writers' work is distributed through the organization. Members of the movement hold secret exhibitions and readings. But this is not without risk; the labor camps on Cardassia IV are filled with writers whose work criticizes the government. These artists experienced unprecedented freedom during the rule of the Detapa council. For eighteen months in 2371-72, a large number of previously banned books were printed, satirical cartoons were published and plays were performed that openly criticized theCardassian State and way of life. This halcyon era ended abruptly when the Cardassian Union joined the Dominion. The Jem'hadar visited those writers, satirists and actors who did not flee quickly enough.
Mealtimes are of great importance to Cardassians. Traditionally, the main meal of the day was a time for the whole family to sit down together. In modern times, the evening meal is still considered a time for family, even if modern lifestyles make it more difficult for the family to eat together. A meal is just as important to lone Cardassians or those away from their family, they will never take work to their meal table; a meal should be a time for conversation amongst friends or intellectual discussion between comrades.
To a Cardassian, a meal is not just food to be consumed; it is a feast of color and artistry. The laying of the table, the color of the dishes and the shape of the kanar bottle are all as important as the food itself. Even a simple act, such as pouring a glass of wine, is savored. Typically a Cardassian will pause to admire the color of the drink before pouring it. Perhaps he will even caress the elaborate spiral bottle before lifting the glass and savoring the aroma. Only then will he take his first sip. Food is also used as a symbol of power.
With whom you share your table is a measure of status on Cardassia. If a powerful Cardassian eats alone, he is stating that he considers no one else is his equal. During the occupation of Bajor, 'comfort women' taken from refugee camps were rewarded with the promise that their families would be well fed.
On the surface the Cardassian approach to food makes them seem like an over-indulgent species, but an examination of recent history shows there are more concrete reasons. When drastic food and resource shortages brought about a revolution, the new military government plundered Cardassia's artistic and archaeological treasures to fulfill their promise to put food on every Cardassian's plate. With much of Cardassia's great art gone and a government that restricted new art, the Cardassians established a new form of artistic appreciation through their food and mealtime rituals.
Cardassians are omnivores, though many of their dishes are meat or egg based. These are generally cooked. Meat dishes include Sem'hal stew and zabo meat steak, both of which are enjoyed by non-Cardassians. Taspar eggs and Regova eggs can be prepared in a number of ways, similar to Terran chicken eggs. Many dishes are flavored with yamok sauce, a condiment that is found on every meal table in the Cardassian Union. Hot fish juice, a broth-like drink, is highly favored for breakfast.
Kanar is the Cardassian spirit of choice. It comes in several varieties; it can be similar to whiskey, wine or liqueur. It is highly intoxicating and the strong taste takes some getting used to.
In recent years kanar has proved popular outside the Cardassian Union, but the Dominion War has made it as difficult to find as Romulan Ale in the twenty-fourth century. Kanar has a tendency to spoil, so keeping a supply on-hand is difficult for bartenders outside the Union.
Cardassian families are tightly knit. Usually, parents will have between three and ten children, and sometimes more. An only child is an anomalous occurrence. Families live together in the Cardassian household, with the father being the head of the house. It is not uncommon for the family unit to be extended from unmarried aunts and uncles to grandfathers and grandmothers, all living together in the same household. The Cardassian people venerate age, and elder Cardassians are seen as wise to the ways of the universe.
Cardassian families share in the disgrace of one of their members; therefore much pressure is put on the individuals to uphold the family name. If a family member stumbles, much effort is put into concealing the fact from the powers that be. If concealment cannot be achieved or the action is quite dastardly, then the member is usually ostracized by the family and turned into a pariah. Usually the member will accept this disgrace to avoid having his family disgraced in his name.
Divorce is uncommon among the Cardassians, except in cases where the acts of the husband or wife would bring disgrace unto the house as a whole. Generally two Cardassians who marry will do so for life, howerver a certain amount of philandering is almost expected by the males of the species. While this is frowned upon by society, the people tend to turn a blind eye toward this type of behavior among the males. The female Cardassians do not enjoy this privilege, as they can be outcast for such loose moral character. A disgraced woman carries a heavy social burden.
Cardassian mating is different from other species, and sometimes those differences are very misunderstood by outsiders. A potential mate indicates interest by expressing a bickering, almost belligerent attitude. This bickering has caused more than one interstellar snafu as misunderstanding spring from hot debates between diplomats. Fertility is of paramount importance, as a mate that cannot bear children is shamed. Men prefer spirited women, and the females of the species tend to prefer strong, dominant males.
Early in Cardassian history, the Obsidian Order learned that well-entertained masses are often too distracted to be mindful of revolution. The best way to remain in power was to placate the citizenry with the Feeds. The Feeds are a network of broadcast screens throughout the Cardassian city streets that broadcast propaganda to the masses all day long. Each home on Cardassia is required by law to have a Feed. On the streets, huge monitors show speeches, trials and executions. In the home, the Cardassian has a choice of five Feeds, however all of them are essentially the same. All extol the glory of the Union. All insist that service to the state brings happiness. And of course, the main Feed broadcast the appropriate propaganda of political speeches, trials and executions. Frequently the Feeds show exactly the same thing on all channels, and the home feeds can be operated form the source, forcing the message to play in the home whether the homeowners want it or not. The same propaganda Feeds are broadcast throughout the Union, not just on Cardassia.
Some unscrupulous individuals modify their Feed unit, allowing them to receive Federation broadcasts or to block the propaganda Feeds. These individuals are criminals, and the Feed units can report such alterations during random automated diagnostics, so most Cardassians choose to just leave them along. At least one criminal a day gets executed for Feed unit alteration, and that keeps the citizens reminded that the Feed units are the property of the government and are not to be modified by unauthorized personnel.
Worship is banned on Cardassia. There is no organized religion and assembly for the purpose of a religious ceremony is a crime.
Ancient Cardassians were polytheistic and worshipped a large pantheon of gods. The names of these gods varied from region to region, but they generally served the same purpose. This diversity of gods gave rise to a large number of priests and temples. Considerable wealth was accrued by the priests at these temples. Mostly the wealth was used for the purchase of 'sacred' art and precious artifacts.
There were also lesser gods and spirits that were worshipped. Small shrines were erected to the spirits of particular streams or roads. Before crossing the stream or walking the road, a small prayer of thanks was given. It was believed that everyone had a klaren, or guardian angel. Thanks were given to this spirit every morning and an offering was made every birthday.
About 5000 years ago a unified religion arose on Cardassia. A priest named Heket traveled widely and discovered that different towns worshipped different deities. In one town that he visited, Keldok (the sky god) was worshipped; while in another town, Rhub (the god of crops and the fields) was the primary deity. He was disappointed that some gods were unknown in some parts and that others went un-worshipped. Realizing that hundreds of gods were too many for people to remember, let alone worship, he set about cataloguing the gods and categorizing them into four "Divine Presences". These were Jonak Waresh (gods of the world), Jonak Mabd (gods of the body and soul), Jonak Athela (gods of fate and destiny) and Jonak Styk'Acken (gods of wrath, vengeance and the afterlife). While he practiced the worship of these Presences at his own temple in Govarr, it was not until after his death that his teachings were passed on to other priests. His faith, Telerath Jonak, gradually spread peacefully throughout Cardassia.
The harsh conditions of modern Cardassia lead to more and more people turning their back on their faith. If the Divine Presences could not prevent the famine and poverty that wracked Cardassia, then they must be powerless. Why should they be still be feared and worshipped?
However, the Church and priesthood continued to exert considerable political influence during the reign of the Detapa council. During the war with the Klingons, Togor Theghen, a senior priest of Telerath Jonak, organized a demonstration for peace in the Imperial Plaza. The protest received massive public support and lasted seven weeks, until troops and tanks from the First Order moved in to disperse the protesters. Over one thousand men and women died. At the insistence of the Central Command, the Detapa Council outlawed all organized religion on Cardassia. Thegen was publicly executed for treason.
Religion is also banned on client worlds of the Cardassian Union. It is feared that religion may be a focus of anti-Cardassian sentiment and a focal point for resistance. An exception was made to this rule - Bajor. When Cardassia banned the worship of the Prophets in the first months of the occupation, there was a massive response from the Bajoran populace. A wave of strikes and protests swept across the planet. In order that Bajor wasn't lost before it had been fully secured, the Prefect ordered that the Bajorans could continue to practice their religion. However constraints were imposed, such as limits to the size of congregations.
Member worlds of the Union are permitted freedom of religion. However, they are not allowed to establish temples on planets other than their own.
There are a considerable number of devout believers in the underground movement who desire the right to worship freely and publicly. This right was re-established when the Detapa Council was restored in 2372. It was just as quickly revoked in the following year when Cardassia joined the Dominion.
Before the Detapa Council, before the Central Command and the Obsidian Order, the Scravvan Families organized Cardassians globally. Despite famine, military coups, wars and the Dominion, the Scravvan Families' business prospers. Their business is crime.
Some historians believe that the Scravvan Families originated in pre-industrial times, when gangs of gamblers and racketeers protected rural townships from bandits. While many Family members emulate the mixture of criminal activities and civic responsibility of those gangs, most scholars agree that their origins can be traced back to early industrial times. As towns grew into industrialized cities, the large population masses made for easy exploitation by those so inclined. Illegal gambling, drug dens and protection rackets were commonplace. Those who organized these illicit activities formed close-knit groups to ensure loyalty and discourage outside interference. With the Cardassian devotion to the family, it was inevitable that the term 'family' was applied to these criminal groups.
Initially the Families consisted of members of the lower Scralan, Ti'alek, and Hibalek classes. They provided drugs, prostitution and gambling. Through typical Cardassian ruthlessness and organization these businesses grew at a rate that would turn a Ferengi green with envy. The Scravvan Families began to acquire interests outside their petty criminal activities. Some backed labor movements and unions, generally to facilitate racketeering but sometimes for more benevolent purposes. Others expanded their businesses into wealthier neighborhoods and began to service (and recruit from) the Amarlek and Ra'malek classes. The Families' influence continued to expand as industrialization progressed and a global economy began to emerge. Several of the families are even of the Trelek class, who banded together in secret almost 900 years ago to form a conglomerate of vesala to keep the lower classes down. A loose worldwide confederation of disparate Families evolved from this mish-mash of the Cardassian social ladder.
As famine swept across Cardassia, and the riots, looting and disorder ensued, the Scravvan Families stepped in. In many towns and cities the Families enforcers imposed curfews and maintained order. The Families ensured that food and medical supplies reached the poorest Cardassians. Of course, there was still a profit to be made in black-marketeering.
When the military seized control, they did their best to crush the Scravvan Families. The Central Command purged the government of any officials with ties to the Families. Scravvan bosses were convicted in highly publicized show trials. The military also cleaned its own house. Any soldier convicted of black-marketeering or smuggling was executed.
Despite all of this, the Families survived. The Central Command may have eradicated hunger from Cardassia, but it did not eradicate poverty. While much of Cardassia prospered, there were still many areas where essential goods and services were scarce. It was in these slums and ghettos that the Families went to ground. Here they still prospered despite the watchful eye of the Obsidian Order and the harsh punishments meted out to these criminals. The people of these poor neighborhoods did not care for Cardassia or the military. Their loyalty was to their family and to their Scravvan Family.
During Cardassia's wars with the Federation and Klingons, the Families conducted business as usual. But when Cardassia allied herself with the Dominion, the Families chaffed under their new masters. When Legate Damar openly defied the Dominion and formed his resistance movement, the Families gladly provided whatever aid they could.
Thousands of Family members were wiped out during the massacre on Cardassia Prime at the end of the war. Some smaller Families were wiped out completely. Despite their losses the Families were often the only form of organization left in many parts of Cardassia Prime. They organized relief efforts and distribution of food. While the government and the military struggled with the global catastrophe, the Scravvan Families worked on the ground with the Cardassian people.
Modern Scravvan Families
The bread and butter businesses of the Families are the same as they have always been - supplying the people with that which they desire and which the law says they should not have: prostitution, drugs, and gambling. These are conducted in the slums and ghettos of Cardassian cities, where they can do so openly and without fear of the authorities. Local Gangs of dispossessed youths are ideal for recruitment as muscle.
The Families control virtually all gambling throughout Cardassia. They run every vole-fight and all the bets on them. They conduct all of the betting on legal vole racing. And they run every unlicensed casino in the Union. The government has legalized a very few casinos and the Families have controlling interests in all of them. A few years ago the Orion Syndicate tried to open gambling joints on several border worlds. The Scravvan Families bombed every single one in a span of a single day.
Smuggling and black-marketeering are also highly profitable for the Families. Luxury goods from outside the Union are highly sought after among wealthier Cardassians. The death penalty for black-marketeering still stands in the military, but the crime is generally overlooked. Military supplies, from food and medical supplies to phaser rifles and even Galor-class disruptor banks regularly change hands both inside and outside the Union. It was a point of pride that the Scravvan families supplied weapons for self-defense to Cardassian colonists in the DMZ.
Senior Family members regularly mix with the upper echelons of the Central Command and the Detapa council. It is open knowledge that they control vast criminal empires but they are regarded as important citizens of Cardassia.
The Families rarely fight amongst themselves. A council of Family leaders settles disputes between Families. It is highly unusual for outright warfare to erupt between Families. This is not to say that the Families are a peaceful organization. Bitter enmity often exists between rivals in different Families or even within the same family. Promotion within a Family is often achieved by eliminating a superior member. The Families bring their collective might to bear on the Orion Syndicate and Ferengi Daimons. The Scravvan Families consider The Cardassian Union to be their territory. Any incursion by criminal organizations from outside the Union is greeted with extreme violence. The Scravvan Families believe that the Cardassian people should be protected from outsiders and exploited by them.
The Families plays a dangerous game of balance with the Obsidian Order. The Order is certainly not in the pocket of these underworld families, as it does sometimes catch the criminals and execute them. But the Families go to great lengths to hide themselves from the Order by working from within. Indeed, many high-ranking operatives of the Obsidian Order (and Central Command) are part of these underground crime families. These criminals ensure that the Obsidian Order isn't looking in the wrong places. They divert the Order's attention through vesala and identification of state traitors and other criminals. It is through this unwilling partnership that the underworld eliminates most of its competition. Sometimes the underworld will sacrifice part of itself to appease the Order, intentionally setting up members that it wants to eliminate from its ranks, all for the betterment of the Family.
Crime Family Ranks
Bravvan are the lowest Family members. They can control a neighborhood, control a network of pimps and girls, or run a vole-fighting syndicate with the associated gambling. Gang leaders, pimps and protection racketeers dream of becoming a bravvan. For bravvan are part of the family and are entitled to all of its privileges and its protection.
Sopravvan are the middle ranks of the Families. They run casinos, control drug networks or oversee all of the Bravvan within a district.
A Ravva'gul is senior member of a Family. He controls all Family activities in a city. Some Ravva'guls control the entire criminal activities of small worlds.
Corlevvan is the title of the head of the Family. Corlevvan are generally well known public figures. The heads of the most powerful Families regularly keep in touch with one another to ensure business runs smoothly.
Major Scravvan Families
The Tegraf Family is the most powerful Family on Cardassia Prime. They control Cardassia City and several other cities. Corlevvan Denan Tegraf and his eldest son were killed in the Dominion massacre, leaving no heir to the Family business.
The Sharal Family controls several major spaceports on major worlds throughout Cardassia. Its primary income is derived from the importation of banned goods and the smuggling of narcotics. Corlevvan Das Sharal is a recluse. He sees no one in person and is believed to live aboard a starship. The Tegraf Family's control of spaceports on Cardassia Prime is an obstacle to Sharal getting a foothold on the capital.
When any government wields its power with an iron fist, as the Cardassian government has, political dissent is sure to evolve. A repressive government unwillingly nurtures groups who are dissatisfied with the state of their society, and Cardassia is no exception to this sociological rule.
Dissent on Cardassia Prime is a rare thing, simply because the Obsidian Order is so watchful for this type of treasonous behavior. Because of this, the groups have to be so cautious that they often border on paranoia. This makes it difficult for a potential new member to join a dissident group, and therefore their memberships are often limited to two or three trusted people. On Cardassia, you are with the Cardassian government, or you are against them. Dissenters are prosecuted under the laws of treason and sedition.
The situation is a little different in the rest of Cardassian space. While the Order can maintain a firm grip on Cardassia Prime, its influence is not as widespread on other planets. It is here that political dissention flowers and blossoms for the Cardassian people. Groups organize themselves into small cells to further avoid detection.
Protest is a difficult thing in Cardassian space. Those who vocalized their dissent would draw unwanted attention to themselves. Most would gather into small confederations that would try to use their vesala to undermine the government's rightful authority. Until the Bajoran Occupation it was the only way the people knew how to protest the brutality of their government.
All of that changed when the Cardassians occupied Bajor. The Bajorans were spirited, and they fought back where so many others had rolled over to the Central Command. The Bajorans, through their actions of terrorism against their Cardassian masters, taught the Cardassian dissidents that violence could be an answer to political problems. Until that time, the thought was unprecedented and unimaginable. In the last several decades, some of these Cardassian dissident groups have embraced violence as a means to an end.
The Justice System
Cardassian justice is swift and effective. The legal system both protects the Cardassian populace and shows them clearly that they are being protected. To Federation observers the system seems harsh and unfair because the accused is not permitted a defense and there is a significant possibility that innocent men and women might be punished. But to the Cardassians, the fate of a few innocents matters little when compared to justice for the Cardassian State and its people.
The Cardassians boast that they have the most efficient criminal investigation system in the quadrant. Investigators have broad powers under Cardassian law, including torture. The DNA records of all Cardassians citizens are a powerful tool during an investigation. The Cardassian authorities even allow investigators to cross the borders of foreign powers to apprehend suspects.
When a suspect is arrested he is told, "You have the right to refuse to answer questions although such a refusal may be construed as a sign of guilt." A suspect may be interrogated or tortured to establish his guilt. Once a convincing case has been made against the suspect, he is imprisoned to await trial. He is no longer considered a suspect; he is now an offender.
The trial of an offender serves two purposes - to demonstrate the futility of behavior contrary to good order and to assure the Cardassian people that criminals are caught and punished. To facilitate this, trials are broadcast across Cardassia. Trials usually last less than a single day, to ensure that they are compelling viewing.
An Archon presides over a Cardassian court. She is both the judge and prosecutor. A Public Conservator represents the offender. The Conservator may point out flaws in the Archon's case but he may not call witnesses nor bring new evidence. Conservators have occasionally won a case, but this incurs the wrath of the Cardassian legal authorities. The offender is permitted a single Nestor, an advisor appointed by the court. There is no public gallery, but the family of an offender is expected to attend in order that the Cardassian people may see them weep.
A trial begins with a declaration of the charges against the offender and the sentence he is to receive. The trial only shows how the offender was found to be guilty. Witnesses are called and evidence is presented to prove the Archon's case. The Conservator may submit no evidence. The spouse of the offender is given the chance to testify against him so as to distance herself from his disgrace. The final testimony comes from the offender himself. He is compelled to testify. There is no right to silence under Cardassian jurisprudence.
At the end of the trial, after the Archon sums up her case, the offender is expected to concede to the wisdom of the state and accept his sentence with equanimity. The Conservator will counsel him to express remorse for his actions. The offender is lead away to begin his sentence immediately. Executions are carried out within days if the sentence is death.
Military and political prisoners are often submitted to the same trial procedure. Such a prisoner may be offered a lenient sentence if he agrees to confess all his crimes during a trial. When the only alternative to accepting such humiliation is further torture, a prisoner might easily succumb. When the Cardassian populace see a Federation officer confess to war crimes against Cardassian soldiers or a leading dissident admit to crimes against the State, they will be certain of the absolute superiority of the Cardassian way.
The purpose of Cardassian science is to serve the state. The Central Command controls all research and exploration. It dictates which sectors of space are to be explored. It decides which research projects can proceed and which are of no value to the State.
Cardassia's unparalleled education system and the renowned Cardassian attention to detail mean that Cardassia produces scientists of the highest caliber. A majority of Cardassian scientists are women, due the gender bias in Cardassian society. While many scientists are content to work for the improvement of the State, some are dissatisfied with the emphasis on practical projects. There are close links between the dissident movement and those researchers more interested in pure science.
The Cardassian Institute of Science is the Union's pre-eminent centre for research. Most of the Union's weapons research takes place here. The Central Command strictly controls it and security is very tight. The staff jokingly estimates that one in three of their number is an Obsidian Order operative. Whether the Order is there to protect the Institute's secrets or steal them is unknown.
Space exploration is carried out with the specific purpose of increasing Cardassia's resources. The discovery of new mineral-rich planets is of primary importance. When such a planet is located, it must be further appraised. Detailed requirements for mining must be determined, potential hazards investigated and the indigenous population must be evaluated to determine whether they can be employed as vassals or must be subdued.
The military does not posses purpose-built explorer vessels. Instead, Galor-class warships perform a limited scientific role. They are equipped with laboratories and have a small complement of scientists. These scientists are usually assigned with specific missions in mind. The commanders of these ships are often women. Female officers who overcome the sexism in the military to rise to the rank of Gul frequently find themselves sidelined by being assigned to exploration vessels. These officers tend to be ruthless from the bitterness of their position in the Union.
Advances in medical science are brought about for military purposes. Surgical techniques are developed to assist injured troops and vaccines are developed to allow Cardassian forces to fight on alien worlds. The treatment of ordinary Cardassian citizens is not considered important enough to devote research to. In particular, attempts to prolong the average Cardassian lifespan are considered contrary to the needs of the already overpopulated State.