That is truly brilliant, Nerys
That may be, as a stand-alone story, one of the best things I've ever read of yours. If the Strange New Worlds contest still ran I would encourage you to enter it. What you pulled off was darn near impossible-you described the intangible in a way that made it exist clearly for the reader. Oddly enough, considering some of the things I know about you, after you had your Gul explain how a Cardassian could form the will to rebel, in that part where he describes assigning a "higher calling" to the intangibles needed to form a rebellion, you missed a bet, a thing Humans could have used to germinate the same impulses-religion.
It doesn't have to be religion, IMO. Any profound personal belief that transcends ephemeral laws and regulations can fulfill that role. That may be religion, but it can be something else as well.
In Kohlberg's theory of the moral development, morality based on authority and maintaining the social order (law and order morality) is stage 4, one of the 2 stages of level 2 conventional morality. The highest level of development is post-conventional morality, and the last stage is stage 6: universal moral principles. One doesn't have to believe in God, gods, or any kind of religious entity in order to uphold universal moral principles.