One finds the Amish and Old Order Mennonites driving horse-and-buggy side by side on the highways with rushing automobiles. One finds the Romany, Tinkers, Travellers still leading a variant of their nomad lives, concealed in plain view on the outskirts of major cities. One finds Aboriginal cultures enscounced side by side with modern farming factories.
Although often a part or all of the culture is preserved, the trade-off may be isolation (which in turn serves to further isolate the culture from outside influence, from standard education, and from homogenising change), and, often, desperate poverty. Sometimes the poverty might not commonly be recognised, since values, too, tend to be different, with perhaps less emphasis placed on acquiring of possessions for their own sake and more on "making do". Thus, one might find the Amish family residing on a small tract of land not considered independently viable by the standards of modern farming business methods. Other times, the signs of poverty are much more overt: inadequate and overcrowded housing with minimal or no plumbing, shocking rates of infection and disease, malnutrition. Where the fringe culture touches directly on a major city, in its apparent "assimilation" its continuing isolation will often be hidden in plain sight amid the poorest of the housing projects, where children caught between the two worlds often grow up in an atmosphere of high levels of crime and of drug abuse.
The individual and cultural extent of these social issues appears to tie directly to the degree to which original values have been replaced by those of the surrounding, dominant culture. For example, perhaps Aboriginal children have no more and no less than they have ever possessed, but, where the indigenous culture is most undermined by the surrounding dominant one, indigenous focus on family and clan has most been replaced by an external focus. The result is that the children, raised with the resources of one world but with the values and expectations of another, discover a lack where no lack had existed previously.
In contrast, firm cultural roots can preserve traditional values and thus the culture itself: even against the well-meaning assimilating forces of a surrounding dominant society. Despite the natural wish of the dominant culture to consider its own values superior, what is under consideration here is not fundamentally that one set of values is in any way better than the other; but that the dominant culture often has difficulty seeing why, by comparison, its own values should seem less desirable. The question, here, would be: what incentive does a culture have to substitute one set of values for another? and at what price are they acquired?
What holds together and preseves these fringe cultures against the forces of modernisation? Will they continue to remain independent amid ever-increasing change? or will that independence become an ever-increasing dependency born of increasing isolation? Is assimilation possible -- or desirable?
Will we ourselves, one day, find our own cultures as isolated from the future present day as on-reserve Aboriginals are today, as technology sweeps over us and overtakes us? or will we be able to ride the wave indefinitely? Will it be a choice we will be able to make? Do we, any of us, have a strong enough culture to survive?