Cardassians are a traditional people. One of the central themes of Cardassian life is duty; duty to the state and to the family. They have a deeply ingrained loyalty to the state, though of course individual perceptions color what entails as duty and loyalty. This is reflected in Cardassian literature, one of the most well known works is "The Never-ending Sacrifice". A chronicle following seven generations of a typical Cardassian family whose lives revolve around duty to the state. Every Cardassian citizen has his or her place; rank and position is an important factor. They are very socially conscious. One should dine or essentially be seen only with others of equal or greater stature. Marriages are likely to be politically motivated.
This sense of loyalty is also very strong towards their families. To a Cardassian, the next important core part of their lives is their family. Elders are revered and respected. Advanced age is viewed as a sign of power and dignity. Children are valued and well looked after. Cardassian parents devote much time and resources to their children, It has been said that up to four generation of a family can live under one roof and eat at one table. However in contrast, they have a social bias against orphans, illegitimate children and half-Cardassians. In the eyes of society, these individuals have no status and are usually not acknowledged.
In addition to this sense of duty and loyalty, Cardassians are very protective of their own homeworld and people. Outsiders are strongly discouraged from interfering in internal affairs, whether political or otherwise.
However should anyone be found guilty of a crime in Cardassia or against Cardassia, will be brought to trial, whether Cardassian or no. And the Cardassian judicial system is extremely strict and rigid. The Articles of Jurisprudence ensures cultural norms to be maintained and as no individual is ever brought to trial unless already determined guilty, the verdict is invariably guilty and the sentence death., allowing the people to feel assured that evil is always punished. The defendant is not allowed to present evidence until the trial commences and is required to testify against himself. The system has a traditional structure, with an archon, conservator and nestor. the archon is the presiding officer of the court. The conservator is an officer of the court whose function is to help the defendant concede to the wisdom of the court and confess his crime. He also aids the defendant in accepting the inevitable execution. the nestor assists the defendant during court proceedings and is not allowed to address the court or any of its officers. As part of the citizen database kept by the government and also utilized by the judiciary system, molars are extracted from Cardassian children at age 10 for identification records by the Bureau of Identification. retinal scans and hair samples are also taken.
Cardassia is also well known for its education system, proposed to be unparalleled in the Alpha Quadrant. Children are put through intensive mind training from age 4, and as adults have highly disciplined minds, including photographic memories. They have a saying, "Knowledge is Power and Joy is Vulnerability." This rigorous mind discipline appears to allow Cardassians to be resistant to the Vulcan mind-meld. Academic accomplishments are a source of pride and academia is a highly respected profession. Those who teach at the tertiary level are known as Inquisitors. However, in the field of science, only females succeed, as males tend to lack the perspective for this discipline. In business, though their acumen or lack of is not known, Cardassians always honor their transactions and are prompt to pay their bills. The monetary unit used on Cardassia is the lek.
Though rather insular, several Cardassian traditions and customs are known. Funeral rites are sacred and it is an affront for non-Cardassians to view the remains. The body of the deceased is till held in respect. Prior to death, a Cardassian confides his innermost secrets to another, usually a close relative. In this way, the burdens of life are relieved and also precious information is passed on.
Another Cardassian custom is that the captain of a ship is to entertain his guests personally and also takes a share of his ship's cargo's worth, giving the captain a personal stake in his consignment.
Cardassian courtship rituals are not really known but overt irritability of a male towards the female is indicative of interest and a prelude to a more permanent situation. In addition, children are very much desired and fertility of both mates are looked for. A form of greeting between the sexes appear to involve touching of palms together.
As a race, Cardassian bear many similarities to the other humanoid races of the Alpha Quadrant, but are yet unique as a race apart. They have many observable racial characteristics. The Cardassian physiology is adapted to a higher ambient temperature than several of the other humanoid species, eg. Humans and Bajorans, approximately 32C. They also have relatively high physical endurance and are capable of withstanding harsher conditions, though they do not appear to have the brute strength of a Klingon. They prefer environmental conditions that are warmer and darker than standard Federation settings. Moreover they exhibit a high metabolic endurance, capable of resisting high doses of drugs, in particular sedatives. One Cardassian specific nerve agent is known; cobalt diselenide, an unstable compund which is deadly to Cardassians but harmless to most other humanoids.
Cardassians excel at conversation and enjoy talking, sometimes simply for the sake of it. They like things to be ordered and have a strong attention to detail. Their disciplined minds rarely miss much. And they are known for their meticulous record keeping. All official meetings and important information are inscribed onto single-write isolinear data rods. It appears all data accumalated is stored, both as information or as specimens. It is also said that Cardassians enjoy intrigue as much as conversation. A popular game among them is Coltram a strategy game which requires "bold strategy and decisive action". A favourite style of fiction is the Cardassian Enigma Tales, in which all the participants are usually guilty, the challenge being in determining who is guilty of what. Another of their favourite type of literature involves the repititive epic, the most popular being "The Neverending Sacrifice". Among the popular works is also a fictitious work of war, "The Crimson Shadow" by Preloc, in which the Klingon Empire is at war with the Cardassian Union, which ironically bears out to be true.
They have a preference for the number 3 and have many aspects of their society in sets of 3, including their architecture. Cardassians are considered master architects. their structures are one of the most beautiful and awe inspiring in the quadrant, both modern and ancient sites. They tend to prefer the open concept in their designs, such as visible supports rather than hidden, and integrated into the overall design.
Food and Drink
Many races consider the act of eating to be a simple biological necessity, but the Cardassians take their food much more seriously, even the most modest of meals can become a ritual experience. An ideal illustration of this is a meal Gul Dukat takes while on a visit to the space station Deep Space Nine. Alone in his guest quarters, Dukat sits at his table in preparation for his evening meal. He begins the ritual by pouring a glass of wine; he pauses to admire its color, then slowly takes a sip, closing his eyes as he savors the taste and smell of the rich liquor. Next, he surveys the food set out on the table. Dukat's approach to his food is delicate yet commanding, and he gives the meal his full attention; he would never consider, for example, bringing a PADD to the table to work while he eats.
A Visual Feast
A Cardassian table setting is reminiscent of a Terran Japanese meal in the size and color of its portions; these delicacies are as much a feast for the eyes as for the palate. To anticipate the meal is as important as the meal itself.
To understand the significance food has in Cardassian culture, it is important to understand that it is not just something to be consumed, but a representation of power and control. In Cardassian society, who you eat with is defined by your position and social standing. Alone on a Federation-run space station, Dukat would much rather eat by himself than share a meal with those he considers to be beneath him.
The Cardassian approach to food can be understood by examining the cultural background of the Cardassian race. While they are known to be quite aggressive in large numbers, they tend to be much more reserved when alone. They are very protective of their borders and ideals, and do not tolerate any actions that may pose a threat to their culture and property.
Five hundred years ago, the Cardassians were a peaceful and very artistic culture, and were known for their great archaeology and architecture. Between that time and 200 years ago, their planet suffered a food shortage. The revolution that followed was very destructive; the Cardassian military eventually too control, promising the civilians a return to prosperity for the planet and a continued supply of food. With so much of their great art gone, it is conjectured that Cardassians seek refuge and a form or artistic expression in their approach to food and its associated rituals.
There is great variety in Cardassian foods and beverages, and many are as palatable to other races as they are to the Cardassians. Even the Bajorans, during the Occupation, gained a taste for Cardassians dishes such as larish pie, a favourite Cardassian dessert.
Cardassians are particularly fond of the eggs of several indigenous fowl; taspar eggs are a particular favorite. The boiled taspar egg is considered a delicacy on Cardassia Prime, although is revolting raw. The eggs are eaten in a similar way to how a human would consume boiled eggs; the shell is broken and the cooked yolk and white spooned out,
Regova eggs appear to be similar to devilled eggs, a human delicacy. They are greenish in color and are often stuffed with a creamy looking substance.
Yamok sauce, and extremely popular foodstuff, is normally served as a condiment with a meal; a container of it will be found in the cupboard of every kitchen on Cardassia Prime. Cardassian dishes with which it is traditionally served include tojal, a delicacy that is particularly repugnant to other races, and sem'hal stew, a simple dish. It can be used equally well to season non-Cardassian dishes as diverse as gramillion sand peas and asparagus.
Cardassian food tends more toward meat and other animal proteins then vegetable dishes. Zabo meat is popular, and can be served one of several ways. Cut into think steaks is popular preparation; in this form, it appears similar to Earth beef, and its taste and texture can be enjoyed by Cardassians and non-Cardassians alike. Vole bellies are another popular Cardassian meat dish.
Non-meat foodstuffs include rulot seed, a grain that is especially important to Cardassian agriculture.
Drinking Up Time
Like other races, the Cardassians enjoy a number of beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. One of their favorites is Kanar. Highly intoxicating, Kanar is an umbrella term for a strong alcoholic beverage that comes in a variety of forms, from a blue-colored wine to a distilled whisky or a think, syrup like liqueur.
Another popular drink is Rokassa juice, which has a distinctive, sweet smell. Cardassians consume this mellow refreshment to calm their nerves.
The broth-like drink fish juice is often consumed steaming hot and is most commonly imbibed at breakfast.
Red leaf tea is a beverage enjoyed by Gul Dukat. He much prefers it over the Terran brands of coffee or even the Klingon coffee raktijino that has become popular with many races. Red leaf tea is a drink that should not be replicated, but created naturally by the infusion of dried plant leaves in hot water.
Cardassian architectural style can best be described as honest; in other words, the function of the individual elements is not concealed for aesthetic effect. As a result, supporting columns and beams are almost always visible. The Cardassians tend to show the inner workings of their systems; for example, some circular doors have extremely obvious ridged edges like cogs, which are used to roll them in and out of place. The approach also explains why their turbolifts do not have doors.
Cardassian design is extremely ordered and formulaic; they prefer to work in threes. This can be seen in design of space stations such as Empok Nor and Terok Nor, where the three docking pylons are placed at equal distances around circular docking ring. The stations also have three rings. These rings are joined by three crossways.
Power of Three
The Cardassians' desire for balance over symmetry leads then to prefer ellipses to perfect circles, and angles to straight lines. Their tendency to see things in threes often leads to curved, triangular doorways.
The Cardassians favor unity, and the same forms are repeated throughout their structures, both inside and out. One of the most favored shapes is a curved arm or tower, which can be seen in both ground-based building and space stations.
The Cardassian aesthetic reflects the very tough, Spartan values that dominate their lives, a sign that they see beauty in strength. Consequently, their structures are often angular and aggressive, and feature sharp points and spars. The vast majority of buildings in Cardassian cities are built from the same material - a dark grey substance that resembles granite and is clearly admired for its tough appearance. As a result, Cardassian cities tend to look very uniform, and resemble the belly of a vast slate grey insect that extends as far as the eye can see. Doorways and window frames are often constructed of metallic substances that resemble bronze or gun metal; like the stone material, these are valued for their strong appearance.
The political realities of maintaining oppressive regime mane the government buildings have to be well-defended; consequently many of them resemble bunkers, and have few windows that could be used to gain entry.
Like most cultures, the Cardassians have constructed their cities around rivers, which were historically important for trade. Typically, important buildings are built on the river banks and can be seen reflected in the water, which turns bright red in the dusk when it also reflects the setting sun.
Cardassian architecture is designed to express and reinforce Cardassian ideology. For hundreds of year, the Cardassians are governed by a fascist system, with the vast majority of people acknowledging their subservience to a political elite. Even within the ruling class the system maintains a strong hierarchy.
Cardassian architecture places great emphasis on the importance on senior figures. In a court room the archon - or judge - sits on podium that is raised several metres above the ground. On a Nor station, the prefect's office in the Operations Center is on a higher level than the rest of the room, and has to be approached by steps. Furthermore, the room is separated from the rest of ops by large doors. One a Cardassian ship, the commanding officer sits on a raised chair, looking down on his officers. This is in stark contrast to Klingon or Federation ships, where the captain is almost invariably surrounded by his crew.
Cardassians architecture also reminds the people that they are under constant surveillance. In practice, every citizen is monitored by the Obsidian Order, who carefully note any signs of unpatriotic activity. In architectural terms, eye-shaped monitors on the buildings look out over the people. In practice these are used for public proclamations, but the symbolism in unmistakable. Once again, the monitors are far higher than they need to be, forcing people to look up at their rulers.
Cardassian interiors tend to be dark. Where the Federation favors large expanses of window, typical Cardassian structures have relatively small windows, rarely take up more space then the supports around them.
Cardassian society makes no concessions to the infirm or disabled, and the same is true of their living space. For example doors have lips, that prevent wheelchairs from moving freely.
Cardassians are fascinated by vertical forms and their interiors are often higher then they are wide. Again, this reflects their obsession with a social hierarchy. On Terok Nor there is a massive promenade that runs around one entire level of station. This is effectively an extended corridor; the remarkable point is that it is on two and sometimes three levels. Each level is taller than it strictly needs to be, and the combined height of the space is enormous.
During the Cardassian occupation of Bajor this multi-tiered design had a practical purpose. The subjugated Bajoran citizens were confined to the lower levels, where they were literally penned in, and their Cardassian oppressors patrolled the upper levels, where they could oversee them in safety. It is clear, however, that the Cardassians also favor this design for aesthetic reasons, since the Cardassian skyline is dominated by narrow towers, many of which were built to honor war heroes.
In 2375, some of the greatest Cardassian cities were destroyed by the Dominion when the Cardassians turned on them. There is hope among the former dissidents that are more inclusive Cardassia will rise from the ashes. If it were to happen it might lead to new architectural principles being used.