When can we consider a man, an inferior man (Xiao Ren)?
According to the Book of Changes and the ancients, we judge the character of a person by his words and actions. The inferior man's words or rationale can be rather sweet and insinuating but they may not be good enough to cover up his mean actions to the discerning.
Perhaps a good example is that of an Asian Central Banker who gambled away his country’s entire foreign reserves in 1997 trying to beat off a pack of hedge funds attacking the country’s currency. He rationalized later that he was trying to save both his countrymen and the country.
The learned judge at the end of the trial had no qualms to throw him in jail and fined him one billion US dollars for restitution.
Of course, the banker did not have such vast sum of money, but that was not the point. This great man (Da Ren) who turned out to be an inferior man (Xiao Ren), after all, has no merit. He suffered the consequences.
Turning to Hexagram 21 Shi He / Biting Through, Confucius says in regard to the nine at the beginning:
“The inferior man is not ashamed of unkindness and does not shrink from injustice. If no advantage beckons he makes no effort. If he is not intimidated he does not improve himself, but if he is made to behave correctly in small matters he is careful in large ones. This is fortunate for the inferior man.”
Global financial regulators could do well with their charges if they take note of the great sage’s comments.
On the subject of the nine at the top Confucius says:
“If good does not accumulate, it is not enough to make a name for a man. If evil does not accumulate, it is not strong enough to destroy a man. Therefore the inferior man thinks to himself, ‘Goodness in small things has no value,’ and so neglects it. He thinks, ‘Small sins do no harm,’ and so does not give them up. Thus his sins accumulate until they can no longer be covered up, and his guilt becomes so great that it can no longer be wiped out.”
In contrast to the first line, this top line refers to a man who is incorrigible. His punishment is the wooden cangue, and his ears disappear under it – that is to say, he is deaf to warnings. This obstinacy leads to misfortune.
[Book of Changes - Wilhelm / Baynes]
In case you do not know, students who receive no approval from their masters cannot teach, and those who use intellectual material of others, without the real owner's permission or fair use with citations, engage in thievery; no matter what the rationale.
Regulars in Daoist and Yi forums may find the inferior man under the guise of students and/or ‘teachers’. I tend to avoid such persons and those associated with them.
At the very least, I would not get ‘Madoffed’!