Back in the time of the Cold War, you would sometimes see pictures in the paper of the members of the Politburo of the Soviet Union.
They were old men, for the most part, who by their very oldness were telling us that something was seriously wrong in the way they did things over there - it suggested that holding on to power was the only ambition of those who were in public life, to the extent that they would hold onto it way beyond the point where they could be of use to anyone except themselves.
Communist China seemed to be running a similar kind of an old-folks show - indeed both countries were commonly descried as "gerontocracies". Which clearly wouldn't help them much, in their engagement with the modern world.
But then those men and their regimes would argue that their main purpose in life was to avoid what they perceived as the grievous errors of that modern world - instead they would be more like the Vatican, itself a gerontocracy which placed a much lower value on the dynamic energies of the top men, than on their loyalty to the belief-system.
Communism and Catholicism were both major world religions in their own way, and had arrived at the conclusion that the continuity of the faith was the thing that mattered, that a more "progressive" style of leadership would not be helpful. But behind those ancient facades, it was all falling apart.
Which brings us to the strange case of the United States, where they seem to be running some kind of a gerontocracy of their own - of the three men who now have a chance of being the next US president, Trump is the youngest at 73, there is Joe Biden (77) and Bernie Sanders (78).
Indeed, Bernie may be the oldest, and he may have the least chance, but he is probably the most lucid of the three. So we're not being ageist here, we just feel that we can discern something of a pattern, something perhaps of generational significance.
Put it like this: Alan Dukes, who has been frequently appearing on our radio and TV shows as the archetypal elder statesman no longer embroiled in the daily struggles of politics, is 74. Michael Noonan, who has been around the track on many occasions, and who wouldn't be expected to do any serious work for the rest of his life, is 76. Dick Spring, who has been out of the arena for a long time, is a mere 69.
Some will say that with Trump, Biden and Bernie, we are looking at our old friend the patriarchy, still hanging on to the power. But I would trace it, like I would trace most bad things, back to the 1980s, when the idea really took hold that this concept of "public service" was basically for mugs.
In the time of Thatcher and Reagan, there was no such thing as society and greed was good and all that - indeed even in this country, jobs in the public service which were once highly prized started to be seen as innately inferior to whatever the heroic entrepreneurs of the "private sector" were doing.
Governments were now regarded, and were happy to be regarded, as mere facilitators for corporations, to which most of the smart people had gone, leaving "public life" to the mediocre kind - we are still seeing this attitude of public service self-loathing in our own Government's inertia in areas such as housing.
So you are left with this American gerontocracy which can be broken down roughly like this: Bernie Sanders is a 1960s guy, the oldest hippie in town; Biden is a 1970s guy, a kind of a liberal swinger of that period; and Trump is a 1980s guy, the ultimate there-is-no-such-thing-as-society guy, the ultimate greed-is-good guy.
After that... well, there were younger people running in the Democratic primaries but they were people like Pete Buttigieg, the perfect exemplar of the kind of bland political hack who is adept at looking after his own career, but is not much use otherwise. Such people become "special advisers", they keep the game going - but they don't really have souls, as such.
And so we are left with these three elderly gents, in this story of the decline of American democracy - there is no Bill Clinton, who was a 1960s and a 1970s and a 1980s guy; or no Barack Obama, because there probably never will be another Barack Obama.
Instead, there is Trump bringing all his 1980s delinquency to the centre of government, that hatred of concepts such as the "common good" - an attitude that is particularly exposed in these days when the only proper response is to concentrate entirely on the common good, and the only response from Trump is to worry about Wall Street.
And if he can get through this thing for which he is utterly unsuited, he is expected to attack Joe Biden mercilessly about Joe's "cognitive decline" - two old men arguing about which of them is the least demented.
As with any gerontocracy, it is hard to see it ending well.
Rory McIlroy's recent remarks about his objections to a proposed Premier League of golf, partly on the grounds that the money was coming from Saudi Arabia, were extraordinary.
Indeed last year he allegedly turned down $2.5m to play in a tour event in Saudi, saying that "there's a morality to it". Which was also extraordinary.
The ordinary thing for almost all the top golfers in the world, is to gorge themselves on the largesse of Corporate America, and everything else of a corporate nature. In so doing, they align themselves effortlessly with the culture of the right, though they would fiercely assert that they are apolitical.
That they just want to play golf - which they'd usually be doing at the Masters in Augusta in a few weeks' time, an event at which almost no black people are ever seen by TV viewers.
Ah, but to mention that would be "political", whereas the effective exclusion of African-Americans (except in the role of security men) is apparently not "political" at all - it's just nature taking its course.
Golfers, of all sports people, might be expected to take a view on such situations - when it comes to getting invitations from dodgy regimes, the top players are so rich, they sure as hell don't need the money.
Which should set them free, as free as Rory McIlroy declining $2.5m of the Saudi's filthy lucre. Yet it doesn't, for the most part.
So it was a big thing for Rory to do, breaking with the ancient customs of his tribe.
Good on him.
I think I have a superpower.
It is not perhaps the most useful superpower that you might have at a time like this - and I'm not sure how useful it is, even to me.
But it goes something like this: when I switch on the Marty Whelan show on Lyric FM, and there's a piece of music playing, I know straight away whether Marty is manning the decks that day, or whether it is one of those rare days when he is replaced by a substitute.
I just know…
The music itself will not be much different, it may be a light classical piece that Marty too must play along with the good stuff - on the face of it, there's no difference in the sound coming out of the radio. And yet I know…
I just know that there is something different about it, some other energy that is not Marty's. I can sense the absence of his great spirit, somehow. And invariably, it turns out that I am right.
I don't know how I do it - but nor do I know how he does it.