• Humans grow attached to places, as they do to objects, times and other humans. They instinctively love and protect their territory, like other animals do: the place they feel most secure in and familiar with, loving, defending, and helping it most, esp. the one they developed such attachment to at young formative stages.
Patriotism is more of a bond between man and time, than man and place: we are attached to the time of childhood, wherever spent. If those early years were spent in several countries, a varying degree of attachment develops toward each, with the most felt toward that of one's parents. We remember childhood best, because it's the time the brain relies more on memories, making first impressions that become one's guide later in life.
• As we grow up, along with instinct, patriotism is driven and nurtured by reason: the more we understand the benefits a place offers, the more we love it. Our attachment grows by mutual interest, like any relationship, between us (citizens) and our country.
We follow instinct when we lack data. Patriotism is the native's compass to distinguish enemies from friends. It's the layman's guide to politics, to feel secure and understand his basic rights, without getting lost in the maze of politics, that is perpetually changing. He needn't know much about his MP, governor or president, as long as he knows these are real patriotic people. If he loves his country and his country returns such love, by protecting and helping him, he may trust whomever in power and whatever is cooking in the political kitchen.
• Patriotism is relative, not absolute; it's needed at certain eras, places and life stages, more than others. The more mobile, diverse, rich, educated ... and young a society is, the broader the sense of patriotism and "loyalty" its members feel: toward their town, province, country, and the entire world. Thus patriotism depends on
- The patriotism of youth is different from that of old people: it's short, impetuous, taking less time and thinking, yet able to make quick changes many old people can't make. Youth are more desperate for CHANGE, which could equally lead to dying for or deserting one's country. It's vital to satisfy the needs of young soldiers or whoever in a "patriotically critical" job, financially, emotionally, and intellectually, to curb and benefit from their passion, teaching them about their country and the world they instinctively itch to discover. They need the guidance of wiser, older leaders.
- The patriotism of outcasts is different too. The gifted, the poor & many minorities (ethnic, religious, sexual, or physical) suffering in their home country may naturally feel less attached to the place adding to their grief and infringing their rights. Like the youth, they need special attention too, as some of those suffering may opt for anarchy, treason or even revenge on other citizens, which is unethical, narrow-minded and useless, never helping their cause or decreasing their suffering.
- The patriotism of immigrants, foreign workers/students/explorers, etc. depends on why one leaves their home country. Leaving by force or out of necessity can cause severe homesickness, especially at old age. Deserting one's country out of ignorance or temporary enthusiasm can cause guilt, along with nostalgia afterwards. Conversely, "forced stay" and the inability to discover the world can weaken patriotism, unless it's combined with knowledge of the advantages one's country has. Temporary distance from one's country is as healthy as that in other human relationships.
• Patriotism doesn't contradict global citizenship. Just as you can simultaneously be loyal to a town, province and country, so you can to the entire world, helping whoever needs help on Earth. It's too naive to think of the world as the here and now only, limiting your life experience, because the world is not just a country, and time is not just a present. One's loyalty to their country should be within their loyalty to the world: their priority is to achieve the most good for humanity while looking at the larger picture, helping the largest number of people, living at present, and yet to live in the future.
However, in practice, achieving this requires helping oneself and one's country first. One can be useful to Mother Earth, e.g. by living for a universal cause; or one can start by helping countries that have more in common with their own, for their geographical position, language, culture, and, above all, interest ("broader nationalism," like among countries of EU, Latin America, Arab World, Far East, or any multinational bloc).
Eventually, Earth will be for all its children, who will live in a "real" global village, where one can travel between Earth's streets faster than what present technology allows. Even then, if we discover life on other planets we can travel to, being a mere Earth patriot may become a sign of close-mindedness.
• Ex-patriotism or loving other countries may/may not affect one's love for their own country. We all enjoy old and new things, our memories in homeland and adventures in foreign lands. We need to settle in one place and to cooperate with the inhabitants of another. Ex-patriotism is useful for understanding and cooperating with other countries; it's harmful if it makes one work against their own country.
Ex-patriots love visiting, discovering, and learning about other countries. However, some may "hate" their home country because they can't satisfy their basic human needs there. Negative ex-patriotism can take the form of addiction to travel ("itchy feet"), national inferiority complex, blind imitation of a foreign country, brain drain, or, worse, treason.
• Because patriotism is partly instinctive, bias grows sometimes, just as you feel toward your mother or child you love and have to take care of. Thus, sometimes, when you talk patriotically about your "beloved country" foreigners may dislike, criticize, mock or ignore you, because they don't have your feeling: they have neither your past memories nor your present interests in your country.
When patriotism is driven by instinct only, it may lead to chauvinism or negative patriotism, that has many causes:
Attachment is fatal sometimes. Some people insist on staying in their country while it is in war, a devastating war, despite knowing they risk their life everyday by staying there. They don't die by an enemy's bombs or missiles; they die because of their attachment to the land, people and memories there. Love, as a source of pleasure, becomes a source of misery, if not a cause of death. They killed themselves by blindly following instinct, for the sake of something they love but can't reason with.
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It's easy to know whether one is patriotic/unpatriotic/over-patriotic/ex-patriotic/pan-patriotic ... by applying the simple principle of mutual interest, i.e. the "golden rule" used in human interactions, to one's own relationship with their country, to understand which of the above labels best fits them, by asking: