It’s easy to tell if something is empowering. If something is truly empowering, those in power are doing everything in their power to suppress it.
Voting. In the 2012 election wait times for largely minority dominated precincts were twice as long for white dominated ones. All those news articles on Gerrymandering and voter suppression aren’t just happenstance. Voting is powerful. If it weren’t people wouldn’t be trying their darnedest to suppress it.
One common objection to voting is that all the politicians are equally corrupt. While a lot of times it is slim pickens at the polls, look at it like an optometrist eye glasses test. They alternate lenses in front of your eye and ask you which one you see the letters more clearly through. The first two lenses the letters look blurry but one looks less blurry than the other. After many tries with different lenses the letters look clear. The point is if we vote for the lesser of two evils eventually things will get better because the next choices we get will be better. Things will never get good but over time they will get better than they are now.
Tangentially related to voting is demographic disenfranchisement. Those in power put their greatest hope in our generation’s disaffection. This is because a healthy voting percentage is the main way a demographic advocates for itself in our system. Senior citizens and baby boomers vote (in the general election and primaries) and politicians bend over backwards to support what they care about. If we millennials started voting in numbers like them you can bet that things close to our hearts such as student debt reform, income inequality, unemployment, climate change, etc.. would feature more prominently on politician’s minds. It wouldn’t be a matter of them becoming more just or warm hearted. It would just be that their hands would be forced because our votes would help keep their butts in their seats, and in the end that’s all they care about. In this case it doesn’t matter if millennials voted Democrat, Republican, or Independent, just that they voted in large numbers.
Collective Bargaining. Union power has been on the wane for decades but the decay is accelerating now. If unions weren’t powerful why would the Tea Party governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker try busting the public sector ones basically as one of the first things of his tenure? Why did Michigan governor Rick Snyder pass right to work legislation (which basically severely weakens unions) in a unionized auto manufacturing state where they were the strongest? Why does Wal-Mart have a union suppression crew that flies via private jet to stores attempting to unionize?
The common objection that comes up is unions slow productivity and are corrupt. Some are but again it’s weighing the two evils and picking the lesser one. Usually you’ll find unionized employees make more per hour, have better benefits, and are treated more fairly. Again there are exceptions but this is the rule.
There is this narrative coming from those in power that it isn’t a zero-sum game, there is enough for everybody, it’s not powerful pitted against the powerless, employee pitted against employer, etc.. This narrative is partially true because there is enough for everybody but those in power would lose their power if things were truly distributed evenly and the thing those in power fight for the hardest is keeping and expanding their power. If you want something you have to fight for it, that’s how things have been since prehistory. Knowing the right battles to pick is key though. And those in power’s actions will lead you to the correct ones to pick.